April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and while most people know about heartworm disease, they don’t necessarily know what it is. Today, our goal is to help you understand a little bit more about what this disease is and how you can protect your pet.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal infection caused by heartworms. Heartworms are a type of roundworm that live in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels of affected animals. Although it can be successfully treated, a heartworm infection can cause lifelong damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs in the body.
How heartworm disease is spread
Mosquitoes can carry heartworm larvae and pass the larvae on when they bite a dog. The larvae then travel through the dog’s body until they reach the blood vessels in the lungs and heart. The larvae stay in those blood vessels and mature into adult heartworms, up to 12 inches long. This process takes about 6 months. Adult heartworms reproduce and the cycle is continued as that blood is passed onto the next mosquito to bite the dog.
The earlier heartworm disease is diagnosed, the better your dog’s chances of recovery. Knowing that, there are few – if any – early signs, which is why it is important to have your dog tested annually. A simple blood test will reveal the presence of heartworms.
To protect your dog from heartworm disease, it is essential that you give him a heartworm preventive on the same day each month. It is also wise to consider a product that repels mosquitoes, as they are often carriers of the disease. At your dog’s annual preventive care exam, we’ll also test for heartworm, which will ensure that the preventive has been effective. Your dog will be at increased risk of heartworm infection if a dose of preventive medication was missed or given late, or the preventative medicine was spit out/vomited by the dog.
If it’s time for your dog’s annual preventive care visit and heartworm test, if you need your dog’s heartworm preventive refilled, or if your pup is showing signs of a possible heartworm infection, call us.