Heartworms

Welcome pet lovers to today’s Vet4YourPet Blog. So what do you want to talk about today? Summer is here, maybe we should talk about mosquitos? Yuck! Did you know that even if your pet has been on heartworm prevention he/she could test positive? How is this possible?

The answer lies in the abundance of mosquitos along the Treasure Coast, and in the majority of cases a lack of human compliance. Florida, the Mississippi River Valley and the Ohio River Valley have the highest incidence of heartworm disease in the country basically due to the climate. In our hospital, we diagnose and treat quite a few dogs with heartworms every year. First, to understand why your dog ended up with heartworms you have to know a few facts about the disease itself.

When mosquitos bite a heartworm-positive animal (which includes some wildlife) they become infested with baby heartworms and share them with the other animals at each feeding. This is the way the disease is spread around. A baby heartworm will go through a few transformations in your pet before it reaches its final destination…the heart and the pulmonary vessels. It takes up to 6 months to get all the way to the heart. Within this time your pet could be bitten several times and have several worms in different stages of development. The significance of this is that the heartworm prevention kills only the new baby heartworms that are not older then one month. The older worms cannot be killed by the medication. It’s for that reason that it is absolutely imperative that you administer the heartworm prevention every 30 days.

There are some other possibilities of getting heartworms, too. Your dog may have an upset stomach and vomit up the medication or if you apply topical heartworm prevention and take the dog to the sand bar for the day, you could strip off everything from the skin that you put on. You may forget and skip a month altogether. Some veterinarians consider worm resistance to the medication itself as a factor, too.

The disease is more complicated than people think. We recommend that you talk to your veterinarian to initiate the treatment. There is a lot to talk about when it comes to the treatment itself but this is a subject for a later blog.

Until next time, God bless!

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