Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal infection caused by Dirofilaria immitis, a parasite that infects dogs and some wildlife species. It is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. Once the larvae are introduced into the skin of dogs they migrate through the tissues and blood stream to the chambers of the heart where they develop into worms. These “heart” worms can damage the heart resulting in symptoms of heart failure such as coughing, weakness and a reluctance to exercise. If the heartworm infection is severe enough, death can result.
The heartworm infection is diagnosed by a blood test. The infection cannot be detected until about 6 months after infection. That is why we consistently test dogs in the spring, starting around April 15. The test tells us if the dog was infected the previous summer.
It is much easier and safer to prevent the heartworm infection than it is to treat dogs for the disease. For this reason, we recommend that all dogs be given a heartworm preventive medication throughout the entire heartworm season. In our area, the season for prevention runs from June to the end of November. Heartworm medications are available in a variety of oral and topical preparations.
If you need help selecting a heartworm product or have any questions regarding Heartworm Disease, please contact us at your convenience.