HEARTWORM DISEASE IS JUST EXACTLY WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE:
IT IS CAUSED BY PARASITIC WORMS THAT GROW IN THE DOG'S HEART.
As you might imagine, this is not a good thing. It leads to heart failure, lung disease, and death.
HEARTWORM DISEASE IS TRANSMITTED BY MOSQUITOS.
It all begins when an infected mosquito bites your dog. Infective larvae are transferred from the mosquito to the dog. From there the larvae grow and develop inside the dog, and eventually the larvae change into worms that invade the right side of the heart and the lungs. These worms produce more larvae that circulate in the dog’s bloodstream to be passed on when the dog is bitten by another mosquito, and the cycle repeats.
Because Heartworm Disease is transmitted by mosquitos, even dogs that are never around other dogs are at risk. "Indoor only" dogs are at risk whenever they go outside to potty, or whenever a mosquito finds its way inside the house.
It may take years for many dogs that contract Heartworm Disease to develop symptoms of coughing, lethargy, fatigue, weight loss, and a swollen belly. Newly infected dogs may seem perfectly normal, but all the while the worms are growing and causing damage. Treating an advanced Heartworm infection is fraught with potential complications. The best time to treat infected dogs is early, before any symptoms even appear, and prevention is the best treatment of all.
For this reason we recommend testing for all dogs. Dogs should be tested now and again annually. Heartworm testing is quick and simple. We draw a small blood sample and run the test while we do our examination, vaccinations, etc.
HEARTWORM DISEASE IS PREVENTABLE.
Medications called “Preventatives” are given to protect dogs from becoming infected. They work by killing all the infective larvae transmitted by the mosquitos before they have a chance to develop into Heartworms.
It is largely effective. But sometimes accidents happen and patients will become infected anyway. Sometimes people forget to give a Preventative on time. Sometimes individual differences in patients causes the Preventative to be less effective. For this reason, we need to test every year.