Heartworms are exactly what the name implies. They are the most serious and deadly parasite to attack an adult dog. These worms are carried by mosquitoes and transmitted when the dog is bitten. Lodging in the heart, the worms restrict blood flow and cause damage to other internal organs. Without treatment, heartworms will cause a long and often lingering death.
Heartworms are horrible. Anyone who has ever known or had an infected dog knows how slowly but surely the parasites can sap the animal’s strength and vitality. Heartworms can do a great deal of damage to your pet if you do not catch them in time. The good news is that you can prevent it from happening.
Virtually all dogs are at risk, especially during the warm weather season. There are often few signs of heartworms until a serious infestation is underway. The most common symptoms of heartworm infections are coughing, sluggishness, and labored breathing. Heartworms can migrate to vital organs within two to three months. The larva complete their migration in six months, ending in the actual heart chamber. These worms, which can reach a length of 14 inches, live in the heart, restricting blood to the organs, left untreated heartworm can lead to heart and lung failure, kidney and liver damage, and eventual death. And yes, all it takes is the bite of just one infected mosquito.
The smart route to travel is one of prevention. A simple blood test done by your veterinarian will let you know if your dog has heartworms. All dogs must be tested for heartworm infection before they can start a heartworm preventive routine. Your dog should be given a blood test for heartworm every year in the early spring. If the blood test is negative, your pet may be prescribed a preventive medication to be given once a month, which also controls many common intestinal worms. Heartworm prevention is as easy as that but it must be done regularly, every month, to ensure continued protection. With routine testing and once-a month medication, you can offer your animal companion complete protection against heartworm infection.