Transmission and Symptoms
Young heartworms (microfilariae) circulate in animals’ bloodstreams and are picked up by mosquitoes when they feed on an infected animal. The mosquito can then transmit heartworms to other animals that they bite. Once heartworms are introduced to their host, they migrate through the bodily tissues to the heart.
In dogs, symptoms of heartworm infestation will be mild and somewhat random at first, and a dog might not even show any symptoms at all—this is one of the reasons that heartworm infestation is particularly dangerous. As the worms continue to invade the heart tissues, symptoms like coughing, lethargy, and lack of appetite will appear. Without treatment, complete heart failure may occur.
Treatment vs. Prevention
It’s far easier, less worrisome, and less expensive to prevent heartworm infestations rather than treat them after the fact. Heartworm treatment may take weeks or even months, and can be quite costly. It’s also risky—killing off heartworms present in your dog’s bloodstream can cause serious symptoms like fever, obstruction of blood-flow through the body to major organs, and more.
Prevention, on the other hand, is simple. By applying or administering preventive medications to your dog on a regular basis, you don’t have to worry—these measures will protect your dog against heartworms in the first place, giving you peace of mind and saving your wallet.
Preventative medications against heartworm can take several forms. Some come in pill form or as a chewable tablet, most likely administered on a monthly basis. There is also an injection available that must be given every six months. Still others come in a topical gel form, applied directly to your dog’s skin. For exact details on heartworm preventatives, contact your vet’s office.
A Final Tip
In addition to preventative medications, you can do your part to reduce the risk of heartworm infestation at the outset. This means lessening the likelihood of mosquitoes around your property—remove any containers that hold standing water, as mosquitoes will breed in stagnant water during peak season.
Does your dog need preventative medications to protect against heartworm? Call your Portland, OR animal hospital.