Heartworm FAQ

Stay ahead of heartworm disease and protect your dog!

Heartworm disease is a preventable canine disease, but the prevention treatment needs to be given on a consistent schedule to remain effective. It’s important to know more about heartworm disease to keep your dog protected and healthy.

At The Vet Set, we provide both heartworm preventative treatments and heartworm medication. Learn more about heartworm in today’s post where we address frequently asked questions.

Heartworm FAQ

Heartworms are parasites that dogs contract from mosquitoes that can be potentially fatal if dogs haven’t undergone preventative heartworm measures. Heartworms live in the heart and lungs of dogs and are long worms that weave themselves in and out of blood vessels.

Let’s examine heartworms in more detail below.

Can heartworms be transmitted and contracted through other dogs or animals?

Heartworms can’t be transmitted or contracted through other dogs or animals and require a bite from an infected mosquito, so even a feeding puppy will not typically be able to contract heartworm. There is an instance where baby heartworms called microfilaria are able to pass through the nursing mother’s milk and into the bloodstream of the puppies.

The good news is, the worms cannot develop into mature heartworms and are typically mitigated when puppies receive their first heartworm treatment.

How do infected mosquitoes spread heartworms?     

The lifecycle of the heartworm begins with an infected mosquito. Heartworms tend to thrive in dead and decaying animals and circulate in their blood. If a mosquito bites an infected animal it contracts the microfilaria and in the mosquito, the baby worms are able to mature into heartworms in 10 to 14 days.

Then as the mosquito bites another animal, the infected heartworm is able to be transmitted. Once the mature heartworm is in the new host, it takes about six months for the heartworm to become a full, mature worm that can live up to five to seven years in your dog.

Because every year brings a new mosquito season, your dog is extremely susceptible to heartworms.

What are the common risk factors for heartworm?

While heartworms are found in every state, there are areas where dogs are at greater risk, widely seen in Southern states such as Texas and Louisiana. Because heartworm is found nationwide, it’s difficult to predict and pin down specific risk factors beyond region.

Heartworm is also far-reaching because as neglected and stray dogs, as well as other animals such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes, become carriers of heartworm and mosquitoes continue to feed on the infected, heartworm continues to spread to more regions that were once uninfected.

For example, with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, many of the pets were adopted out to families in different states. Countless animals were infected with heartworm which increased the breadth of the parasite.

Why is heartworm testing important?

Heartworm testing for your dog is imperative — not only can it be a fatal disease but it often goes undetected because there aren’t too many abrupt signs or symptoms.

To better prevent heartworm disease in your dog, get them tested for heartworm disease at the vet every year.

At what age should dogs begin to be tested for heartworms?

Dogs should be tested every year for heartworms as a part of their routine care and pet wellness checkup.

Puppies 7 months and under – Because it takes at least six months for a dog to test positive for heartworms, they can begin to be tested right around six months.

Mature dogs over 7 months – If your dog hasn’t previously been tested and are not on preventative heartworm medication, they too need to be tested at six months (if still a puppy) and then every year following.

Why do dogs need to be tested every year when they’re on heartworm prevention treatments?

To ensure that your dog is healthy, it’s still very important to get them tested for heartworm disease even if they are on a heartworm regimen. Not only does it confirm that the prevention is working, but there are cases in which dogs can still be infected from heartworms even when they’re on the medication.

Many times the medication can be skipped over a month or given late, which leaves your dog susceptible.

What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?

Although heartworm disease is concerning and serious for your dog’s health, it’s still a very treatable disease.

Restrict your dog’s activity – This may be extremely difficult to do if you have an active dog or a pack that never slows down! Because heartworm disease impacts the heart and lungs, increased physical exertion can cause additional damage to these organs. So, the more severe the case is the more rest and limited activity your dog should have.

Treat secondary health issues first – If your dog has a severe case of heartworm disease they may present with secondary health concerns such as dehydration or anemia. It’s important to treat these first and then begin the recommended heartworm treatment from your vet.

Start the treatment – Once your dog is stable enough, the heartworm treatment can be administered. Your vet will develop a heartworm treatment specific for your dog that is typically a multi-step process. When dogs with mild signs of heartworm are given treatment and have limited activity, the treatment is quite successful. However, the more severe case of heartworm disease, the greater the risk for complications.

Follow-up testing – After roughly six months of heartworm treatment, it’s important to re-test your dog and confirm that the heartworms have been eliminated.

Prevent heartworm disease today!

Heartworm disease is a significant health condition for dogs if left untreated, so it’s vital to know, understand, and prevent heartworms in your dog. The American Heartworm Society invites you to Think 12:

  • Ensure your pets are tested every 12 months
  • Administer preventative heartworm medication 12 times a year

To keep your dog healthy, heartworm prevention is the standard, so get them on a monthly regimen.

For more information on heartworm disease or to get your dog tested, reach out to our Carroll Gardens vet clinic today!

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