There is no doubt that preventative medication is the best way to help protect your pets from some of the nasty and potentially deadly viruses and diseases that they are at risk of developing. Thankfully, advances in veterinary medicine mean it is now possible to vaccinate our animals against more of these illnesses than ever before, and an increasing number of pet owners are realizing the benefit of doing so and choosing to opt in to preventative medical care.
Heartworms are just one of the dangerous diseases that pose a risk to our pet’s and in particular, our canine companions. Heartworms are an internal parasite, living inside our furbaby and depleting her of nutrients so that they can thrive while she suffers. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and just one bite from an infected mosquito can deposit heartworm larvae into your dog. Once in her body, they will migrate to the blood vessels of her heart and lungs where after around 6 months they will grow into full size adults reaching anywhere from 8 to 12 inches in length. As soon as they become adults they become capable of reproducing rapidly, and as heartworms can live between 5 and 7 years in dogs, it is possible for a huge number of worms to accumulate. It is not unheard of for a severely infected dog to have as many as 200 heartworms in their body.
Heartworms are a potentially deadly disease if they are not treated. This is because as their numbers grow, not only will the parasitic drain on your pet be more significant, but they will also start to block the blood vessels in her heart and lungs. This can cause considerable damage to her body, damaging the lining of the arteries and causing blood clots and aneurysms.
Unfortunately, heartworms cause damage at a rate faster than your pet’s body can heal meaning that without treatment, irreversible harm and eventually death are almost certain.
Heartworm infections are notoriously difficult to identify until they have progressed, as symptoms often do not become apparent until damage starts to occur to your pet’s body. When symptoms do start to appear, they can include:
- A soft cough
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargic behavior
- Weight loss
While heartworm preventative treatments are highly effective at targeting immature heartworms (heartworm larvae), they cannot kill fully-grown adults. While a puppy under 6 months of age if she does have a heartworm infection, preventative treatment can destroy the parasites before they reach adulthood. However, if your dog is 6 months of age or older, it is essential that she is tested for heartworms so that our vet can be sure she isn’t haboring an infestation before she starts a course of preventative treatment. Failing to do so could render the preventative pointless and leave your dog suffering a potentially fatal infection that may not become apparent until symptoms show – at which point significant damage to your pet’s health may have already occurred.
If your pet already has a heartworm infection, she will need treatment to kill the adult worms as well as preventative treatment to destroy the larvae. Full scale treatment for heartworms can be expensive, extensive and uncomfortable for your pet.
If you haven’t yet had your canine pal vaccinated against heartworms, contact us and speak to our veterinarian to arrange testing and preventative treatment as soon as possible to ensure that she is safe from this deadly disease.