What is heartworm?
Heartworm are parasites that live in your dog’s heart and nearby blood vessels and feed on their blood. Heartworm disease is very serious and potentially life threatening for your dog however, by the time symptoms show, the disease is often in its advanced stages. This is why it is so important that your dog regularly receives heartworm preventatives. Use our Flea, Tick and Worm Treatment Finder to identify which treatments will provide your dog with total protection against the parasites in your area.
How can dogs develop heartworm?
Heartworm can only be spread through mosquito bites. When a mosquito feeds on an infected dog, it becomes contaminated with heartworm larvae. Now that this mosquito has become a host, it will eventually transfer these larvae to other pets it bites, allowing the larvae to spread through their bloodstream until they settle in your dog’s heart. A single bite from an infected mosquito can give your dog heartworm.
As it takes several months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms, the symptoms may not show until there are a critical number of worms in your dog’s heart and lungs.
What are the symptoms of heartworm?
Symptoms typically will not show until the heartworms have matured and so if you notice any of these signs, you should immediately take your dog to your nearest Greencross Vets clinic for a professional diagnosis. Many of these signs will be especially pronounced after exercise.
- Persistent dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and lethargy
- Low stamina
- Avoidance of physical activity
- Poor body condition
How can I protect my dog against heartworm?
In severe cases of heartworm, your dog’s heart, lungs and other organs will be severely damaged making it difficult to treat the disease. It is much better for your dog’s safety and comfort for you to outright prevent them from contracting this disease rather than treating it after the fact.
It is dangerous and potentially fatal to give your dog a heartworm preventative treatment if they have already contracted heartworm. If you are not sure of the health status of your dog, please take them in for a checkup at your local Greencross Vets before you proceed.
Puppies should begin their heartworm treatment when they are 12 weeks old. Common methods of preventing heartworm include an annual injection of SR12 which you can receive from your vet, otherwise you can administer monthly tablets to your dog. Petbarn’s Flea, Tick and Worm Treatment Finder will recommend the best combination of products to provide your dog with complete protection against heartworm and other parasites.
For more information on how to protect your pet and keep up to date with vaccinations, visit your local Greencross Vets clinic.