How Can I Protect My Dog Against Heartworms?

We recently saw a case of Heartworm in our Renton Veterinary Hospital. Heartworm disease is a serious, life-threatening condition affecting dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats. Mosquitoes spread the disease by injecting the parasite into your pet at the time of the bite.
Clinical symptoms of heartworm disease develop very slowly. Lack of energy and exercise intolerance are early symptoms, as are coughing and difficulty breathing. Because heartworm disease is increasing in frequency and is a serious and deadly disease, we recommend your dog be tested annually.

Heartworms are parasitic roundworms that can be transmitted to your dog via mosquito bites. Your dog should be tested by your vet every six months to check him or her for heartworms that were contracted during the previous season, as early detection is the key to properly treating your pet.

Though the risk of mosquito bites is typically heightened during the spring and summer months in (insert city), it is important to protect your dog from these pests year round. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms are diagnosed throughout the year, and the mosquitoes that carry the parasites can proliferate even when the weather is cold.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm disease prevention is simple and effective. For dogs, a once-a-month heartworm preventative can be given as a tasty, chewable treat. This same chewable medicine prevents not only heartworms from developing, but also kills and prevents most other types of worms that can infect your dog. Cats are protected by applying a drop of heartworm prevention liquid to the skin once-a-month. We recommend this to prevent heartworm disease as well as fleas, ear mites, and other types of worms that can infect your cat.

Heartworm Treatment

The corrective measure is more expansive and risky than taking preventative steps, and it can prove to be lengthy, lasting several months. It can also be painful, and the parasite die off can cause inflammation and complications. It can require your pet to forgo most of their exercise for one to three months, and for one million dogs each year in the United States, heartworm treatment will be a necessity.

Heartworms generally require six or seven months to grow to maturity, at which point they can be detected by a heartworm test. Once the larva makes it to the juvenile adult stage, it will migrate to the heart, and this usually will occur within 90 days from the time the organism entered their host. These parasites will continue to live in a dog’s heart for five to seven years or until they die. Heartworms can continue to grow, and female heartworms will pass their microfilaria into the dog’s bloodstream, enabling more worms to grow. Female worms can grow up to 14 inches in length, though the male worms are typically shorter.

It is vital to rid your yard of the stagnant water found in flower pots, gutter spouts, and empty containers to prevent the spread of mosquitoes. You can also use a pet-friendly insecticide outdoors for further protection, and you can administer oral medicines to your pet daily to prevent heartworms. It is important to remember that indoor dogs are not immune to getting heartworms and that they need protection just as an outdoor dog will.

If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm disease, or if you would like additional information on how best to protect your pet from this dangerous parasite, please contact Renton Veterinary Hospital! You are welcome to ask any questions you may have about your pets’ health or regarding the prevention of heartworm. Our friendly staff is available to help you, and we look forward to serving you and your pet.

We’re here for all of your pet’s needs. Renton veterinary Hospital offers preventing and treating Heartworm in Renton, Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, Newcastle, Sammamish, Issaquah, Bellevue, Redmond, and the surrounding communities.