Heartworm prevention is part of your pet’s ideal wellness routine, but how much do you know about this potentially fatal parasite? Learning more about heartworm, how it impacts your pets and what happens if your pet is infected can help you take preventative steps now to keep your dog or cat safe. Here’s what you need to know:

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What is heartworm?

Heartworms are parasites that can live in the heart or lungs of a host; dogs, coyotes and foxes are all ideal hosts for heartworms. Heartworms can cause significant damage, even after the pests have been eradicated, so the ideal course is to prevent them from infecting your pets in the first place.

How can a pet get heartworms?

According to the Heartworm Society, mosquitos are to blame for transferring heartworms from one animal to the next. When a mosquito bites an infected animal and then your dog, any larvae present are transferred as well. Once your pet is bitten, those transferred eggs or larvae grow into adult worms. As the worms grow, the dog begins to exhibit signs of heartworm disease; left untreated, this can become heartworms.

Signs of heartworm disease

Regular, persistent coughing, increased fatigue, weight loss and pale gums are all signs of trouble and should trigger a trip to the vet. Your vet can test for heartworms with a simple blood test and if your dog is positive can provide treatment. Your dog should also be tested each year as part of his well exam.

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Heartworm treatment varies depending on the extent of the illness, the age and health of the dog and other factors, and can take several months. Once the heartworms are eradicated, the dog needs to be on a regular preventative and tested annually to be sure they do not return.

Heartworms are serious, but preventable. A monthly dose of heartworm medicine is all that is needed to prevent infection and ensure that your pup stays healthy. If you are concerned about heartworm or any aspect of your dog’s health, get in touch for a full exam. We’re here on weekends and after hours to make it easy to get your pup seen and on the road to recovery as swiftly as possible.

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