Ask Seth: Heartworm in Dogs

My vet prescribes heartworm preventative for my dog Sherri every year.  We have never had a problem with heartworms and are considering not getting the medication this year.  She spends most of her time indoors and I think she would be fine without it.  Is heartworm preventative necessary for Sherri?  If she gets heartworm, is it that serious? 

Every dog that lives in an area with mosquitoes is at risk for heartworm.  When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests the heartworm larvae. If that same mosquito bites your dog, your dog will become infected as well.

Preventative medicine is nearly 100% effective when given as directed.

There are several factors that determine how heartworm will impact your dog:

  • severity of infestation (number of worms)
  • your dog’s immune system
  • your dog’s activity level
  • length of time of infestation

Active dogs tend to get more severe cases of heartworm.  Larger dog usually tolerate heartworm better that smaller breeds.

Symptoms of heartworm disease include:

  • coughing
  • muscle weakness
  • weight loss
  • shortness of breath
  • vision problems  

Your vet can perform a simple blood test to diagnose heartworm disease.   Heartworms can grow from microscopic to up to 16 inches in size.  Larger worms can be detected on x-rays.

The earlier heartworm is detected, the more successful treatment will be. Treatment varies according to the severity of the infestation. Severe cases may require complicated and expensive treatments. There are medications that are effective in eliminating the heartworm. Your vet will determine the best treatment approach for your animal based on the severity of the infestation and your animal’s personal medical background and characteristics.

It is clear that preventative medicine is the best way to protect your animal from heartworm!

Share this article with all your dog-loving friends!

One comment on “Ask Seth: Heartworm in Dogs

  1. Wish you had been more holistic in your response.
    There is no heartworm preventative medication, only treatments. Ivermectin actually kills the heartworm and does not prevent heartworm form entering the system. Additionally, it takes 3 months for the larvae to mature to the adult heartworm, therefore, monthly treatment is overkill, especially in states north of FL.
    It's too bad that consumers are so pushed to constantly medicate their pets which in the long run is damaging to their systems.

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