As the weather warms and we go out into the sunshine, so too do the mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes can transmit the deadly heartworm parasite, it's necessary to make sure your furry friend is protected with regular doses of heartworm medication. For dog owners living in or near Independence, MO, our veterinarians at Farview Veterinary Hospital can get you set up with a heartworm prevention schedule that keeps your pet healthy while enjoying the sunshine all summer long.
What Is Heartworm Disease?
Mosquitoes that are feeding on various animals can pick up microscopic heartworm larvae. Then, when the mosquito goes to feed on your dog, these larvae can get loose in your pet's blood, circulating until they latch on in the lung, vessels, or heart where they stay until they are old enough to reproduce. Though it takes around six months for the worms to reach maturity in your pet, each season can bring a new infection and an increasing number of worms in an untreated dog. If the heartworms are left to multiply, long-term damage including death can occur.
The Symptoms of a Heartworm Infection in Dogs
For dogs that are initially infected or those who only have a few worms, there will likely be no symptoms at all. As more worms develop and time goes by, fatigue and a persistent cough are the most common symptoms, as the worms tax the dog's heart and lungs. As the disease progresses, the dog will likely have a swollen stomach as fluid will collect due to heart failure. In the advanced stages of the disease, the dog may gasp or wheeze, become uninterested in eating and have bloody urine.
Our vet will test your dog to confirm whether or not heartworms are present. If they are, we will need to determine how advanced the disease has become. After your pet is stabilized, then treatment can begin, which involves drugs administered to kill the larvae, and then drugs to kill the adults. This process can take months and the prognosis for recovery is better the earlier it's caught.
How To Prevent Heartworms
The good news is that heartworms are very easy to prevent, much easier than treating them. A once-monthly chewable tablet is the easiest way to keep your pet safe from heartworms. These preventative medications are often bundled with a flea treatment as well. Our veterinarian will advise you on the correct dose and brand needed for your specific dog.
Prevention Is Better Than Treatment
There's no reason to avoid treating your furry loved ones for heartworms. The pain from a heartworm infection is high and the risk of death is as well. The monthly cost of heartworm prevention is also far cheaper than the cost of treatment. If you want to make sure your pet stays healthy during mosquito season in Independence, MO, then call Farview Veterinary Hospital today at (816) 257-5454 to schedule a consultation and evaluation.