What is heartworm disease? Can it be prevented? Over the next few weeks, we will post a series of short articles which we hope will shed some light on what this potentially dangerous parasite is and how you can help keep your pet safe from them. Here are the basics of the Heartworm disease that affects most of our pets.
First and foremost: heartworm disease— contracted from exposure to parasitic worms (called heartworms) — is 100% fatal if left untreated. These worms, carried by mosquitoes, live and reproduce in and around the heart and lungs of their host animal. Once deposited, the larvae need about 6 months to mature into the adult worm which threatens your pets’ health. Left untreated, adult heartworms can reach 12 inches in length and live for up to 7 years in dogs.
The good news: heartworm is usually preventable. We recommend giving your dog a heartworm preventative (such as Heartgard or Trifexis) once a month— for a modest cost, you can virtually guarantee that your pet will be protected against this terrible parasite. Although mosquito activity may be seasonal, the risk of a bite is always present and, since it only takes one unprotected bite to infect your pet, we recommend the preventative be taken year round.
In our post next week: how heartworm preventatives work and why we require a heartworm test before administering to a dog that has not taken, or been on a steady dose of, a preventative.