Does My Dog Have Heartworm?
What Is Heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasite that lives in the arteries, lungs and heart of dogs and other animals. It is passed through the bite of an infected mosquito and impossible to prevent with any outward prevention. It takes months for heartworm to build up in the system but if left untreated the heartworm grows to wind its way around the interior of the heart and lungs to the point of suffocation.
Signs And Sympotoms
Heartworm is a serious disease that if left untreated will prove deadly for your dog. Unfortunately there are no outward signs in the beginning stages of heartworm and every dog is at risk for this disease. Advanced stages of the disease may exhibit coughing, fatigue and loss of appetite. Once symptoms become apparent it is much more difficult to treat and should always be prevented or caught as early as possible through regular testing. It doesn’t matter if your dog lives indoors or out, if you take excellent care of them or even bathe them regularly there is no prevention for heartworm other than yearly testing by your veterinarian and diligent dosing with a heartworm preventative.
How To Diagnose Heartworm
There are no at home test kits for heartworm. The tests must be performed by a qualified veterinarian and all heartworm medications are available by prescription only because giving your dog a heartworm pill in any form if they are infected with heartworm can cause serious damage to the animal and even death.
Heartworm tests are easy and quick. Your veterinarian will pull a blood sample and send it to a lab, or perform the test themselves at their own facility. Heartworm is definitely a disease that adheres to the adage that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ as being up-to-date on testing and giving regular heartworm medications during the heartworm season is much easier on your dog’s system than going through a heartworm eradication program. If heartworm is detected xrays and ultrasound can be used to determine the degree of damage to the internal organs. Once a dog has developed heartworm it is not guaranteed that a treatment program will work and it is a painful and drawn out process for your dog and expensive for you.
What Is The Treatment For Heartworm?
After you have had your dog tested and obtained a negative result your veterinarian will prescribe heartworm medication that must be given exactly as suggested. Missing doses can leave your dog exposed. Some people feel that if they give their pets the heartworm medication through the mosquito season they do not need to retest the following spring but it is always best to test before beginning a regimen unless you continue heartworm prevention medication all year round. In some areas year round medication may be necessary due to prolonged mosquito seasons where areas that freeze during certain times of the year often can discontinue medications during that time. Choosing to continue the medications even during cold months can remove the need for re-testing if you are sure no doses have been missed.