You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Well, the same adage holds true for dogs (and cats for that matter) when it comes to keeping them from getting heartworms. This icky parasite can make its way into your dogs beating heart where they can set up shop and cause serious, sometimes fatal, heart and lung damage to your dog.
We can thank mosquitoes for their part in this, too, Heartworm larvae are essentially injected in your pet when the infected vectors bite your dog. Once on board, the larvae work their way toward the heart. That’s where they’ll make their home, maturing into full-on heartworms that continue to grow and feed off of your dog’s heart tissue. As the worms grow and multiply, they can clog-up passageways in the heart. You’ve probably seen the illustrations and photos on your vet’s wall that show what looks like a big, ball of string wrapped in and around an animal’s heart. If not, trust us. It’s pretty awful looking.
Heartworms are a year-round problem, and are usually more prevalent in places where the warm seasons last longer and where mosquitoes are more prevalent. As a rule of thumb, if the mosquitoes are biting you, they’re probably biting your dog, too. Mosquito control on your property can cut down on the number of bites both you and your pet get, but a heartworm preventive medication should be part of your pet’s defense. Most come in monthly doses, and many of these meds now come bundled with protection from other parasites. But wait! If your dog is not already taking some kind of heartworm preventive, see your vet first to make sure they’re not already infected with heartworms. A simple blood test can tell them. This is important intel to have, since suddenly introducing the heartworm meds can send your dog into shock when they start killing off heartworms in their system.
Your dog can be treated if they already have heartworms, but the treatments are expensive and can have some serious side-effects. Why wait? The best bet for your pet’s health is to talk to your veterinarian and prevent heartworm infection from the start.