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Canine heartworm disease and your pet


   This is where heartworms do their damage.

    Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. What are you prepared to do to show Fido that you have his best interests at heart? Canine heartworm disease is becoming more and more prevalent, but it is also one of the easiest ailments to prevent in your pooch.

    First, let’s go over how your canine companion can get these pesky creatures to begin with. Even though you may have limited your dog’s exposure to the outside world, he or she is still at risk for infection if not on any preventative. Mosquitoes are the source of heartworm infestation. A quick walk outside to let your dog relieve itself, is primetime for a mosquito to take a landing on your mutt. A single bite from a mosquito is enough to contract the parasite. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it then carries the larvae to the next unsuspecting pooch. It can take about six to seven months for a full blown infestation; Meaning male and female heartworms that then produce microfilaria (baby heartworms), which flow throughout the blood stream. There can also be single sex infections in which there are no microfilaria present.

   Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes.

    Diagnosis is fairly simple. A quick blood test can be performed by your regular veterinarian to determine if the heartworms are present at that time. A negative result may occur if the duration of the infection is less than five months. Further diagnosis is typically needed to determine the severity of the disease. Radiographs should be taken to note whether or not there is any enlargement of your dog’s heart or any inflammation involving the lungs. In more severe cases, an echocardiogram may be needed to asses the function of your pooch’s heart.

    There are currently two drugs approved by the FDA that can be used to treat heartworms. Immiticide® and Caparsolate® are used in adulticide therapy. Immiticide® seems to be more widely used by veterinarians. Treatment protocols can vary from veterinarian to veterinarian. For the most part, two treatments of an approved drug will be administered over a course of four to six weeks. Restricted exercise at home is a must during treatment due to the passing of dead heartworms. Your regular veterinarian may also send medication home with you to administer between the courses of injections. Typically, steroids (Prednisone) and antibiotics (Doxcycline) are recommended. Another heartworm test will be needed after four to six months to determine the success of the treatment.

   Show him how much you care and protect his heart!

    The most important step is to show Fido how much you love him by protecting his heart. Prevention can be prescribed by your veterinarian after your dog has tested negative for heartworms. The drugs are fairly inexpensive and must be given every thirty days to be effective. Please talk with your veterinarian to find the proper preventative for your mutt. There are a few breeds that are sensitive to the active ingredient (Ivermectin) in some brands of heartworm prevention and are potentially harmful if given.

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*** This is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice or a veterinary exam. Should you have any questions about your animal's health, please call or see your veterinarian immediately. You should never disregard veterinary advice or delay seeking it.


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