What is Heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasite – it lives in the large vessels of the heart which supply blood to your dog’s lungs. The most common result of infection is heart failure. This may be seen as general malaise, inappetence, lack of stamina, a persistent cough, and/or weight loss. In severe cases, dogs may cough/vomit blood, have swollen bellies, collapse suddenly and/or have difficulty breathing.
How can my dog be infected?
Infection ONLY OCCURS THROUGH MOSQUITO BITES. The immature worm needs to go through two of its life stages inside the adult mosquito in order to be able to live in your pet. This means that ALL DOGS ARE SUSCEPTIBLE to infection regardless of how much contact they have with other dogs or whether they are indoor or outdoor pets.
One mosquito bite can cause heartworm infection,
which can significantly reduce your dog’s lifespan!
Heartworm disease is 100% preventable and as a responsible pet owner it should be an integral part of caring for your pet. We live in an area of high risk for heartworm infection and disease.
How is heartworm infection diagnosed?
A simple 10 minute blood test done in the clinic can tell us if heartworms are present in your dog. If positive, x-ray can reveal changes in the heart and lungs that are typical of heartworm disease and help us to asses the stage of the disease.
How can heartworm infection be prevented?
If a dog has not had prevention before, a blood test is advisable to make sure there are not already adult worms in the heart. The preventative products available do not kill adult worms, and treatment for infection is expensive and high risk. NB: 3-monthly intestinal worming tablets do NOT cover for heartworm. Several prevention options are available:
- Monthly top spot treatment. (‘Revolution’ or ‘Advocate’). Also cover fleas (given on same date each month for life).
- Monthly tablets (Panoramis, ‘Interceptor’, ‘Sentinel’ or ‘Heartgard’). Some also cover fleas (given on same date each month for life)
- Yearly injection (‘Proheart SR12’). Given on same date each year, administered by your vet.
Is there any treatment for heartworm infection?
Treatment for dogs involves a series of medications and injections and usually involves hospitalisation for the duration of the treatment. The risk in killing adult worms whilst they are in the heart is that dead worms will cause much more immune reaction than live worms, so the animal’s immune system needs to be managed for the duration of treatment. Special mediation and strict confinement are necessary for a couple of months to reduce the risk of adverse reactions and shock.
The effectiveness of treatment depends on the severity of disease.