Heartworm is Always in Season!
by Dr. Shelley Parker
As spring finally approaches, heartworm disease traditionally comes to mind. However, veterinarians know that heartworm season is year-round. As mosquitoes become more prevalent in the environment, so does the incidence of canine heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal canine illness. Heartworms are transmitted to our dogs by the bite of an infected mosquito. During the bite, the mosquito injects the heartworm larvae, which is the infective stage of dirofilaria immitis (heartworm). The larvae then migrate and mature within the blood vessels of the dog’s heart and lungs. The adult heartworms cause an inflammatory reaction within the blood vessels, leading to clinical disease. It isn’t difficult to imagine the damage that numerous twelve inch long worms can physically cause in your dog’s heart!
Signs of heartworm disease can vary. Some pets with no clinical signs at all are diagnosed with in-house testing, as part of a pet’s routine annual exam. Other dogs cough, have exercise intolerance, develop a distended abdomen, or have other symptoms. Although treatment is available, it is stressful for you and your dog, takes 4-6 months to complete, is risky, not always successful, and is expensive (think 15x the cost of a year’s worth of heartworm prevention, and that’s with no complications).
This deadly disease is so easily preventable by the administration of a monthly tablet, such as Heartgard. These flavorful treat-like chewie tablets protect our dogs from developing heartworm disease, as well as control roundworms and hookworms, two common intestinal parasites which can also be transmitted to people, especially children. We used to think that mosquitoes died off in the winter, but did you know that many species hibernate? Just one day of warmth in the winter brings them out, or they find their way into your house. That is why we recommend keeping your dog on Heartgard year-round for full protection. It is important to note that a dog not currently on heartworm prevention must be tested first. Give us a call to schedule this simple blood test that we do right in our hospital, so that you can begin this easy preventative program today.