The warm weather is finally here and with it comes a hidden danger for your dogs – heartworms. All dog owners should be concerned about heartworms. They are found in every state in the country and pose a serious health risk to your dog. Both the heartworms and the treatment can be fatal, so it is imperative that owners educate themselves regarding this nasty parasite.

Heartworms are transmitted to your dog through mosquito bites, and live in the heart of your dog. There are several things that must occur in order for your dog to become infected, not just any mosquito bite can cause it, and it requires the right temperatures and stages of development in order for your dog to become infected. You can read about the steps to heartworm infection on A Creature Comfort.

Even though it seems like it’s a one in a million chance your dog will get it – there are still things you can (and should) do to prevent it.

Prevention

Prevention of Heartworm Disease is something every dog owner should take seriously.  Heartworm treatment is painful for your dog as well as dangerous – the treatment can be lethal.  It is also expensive.

The first thing you need to do is be sure there is no stagnant water nearby where mosquitos can breed.  Keep your dog inside during the dusk and dawn hours to help prevent mosquito bites.  There are many recipes for homemade, non-toxic mosquito repellents which can be safely used for both humans and dogs.  Apply them to your dog before walks and when it’s necessary for your dog to go outside.

There are heartworm preventatives you can give your dog.  Most require a prescription from your vet, however; there are some that are holistic.  When using the standard treatments such as Heartguard, remember they are literally poisons, and keep an eye on your dog for a day or two after administration as there are some dogs that can have reactions to these products.  They can be hard on the liver, so if your dog has liver issues, discuss this with your vet before giving them to your dog.

Heartworms are preventable if care is taken. Do some research, talk with your vet and determine which type of preventative is right for you and your dog.  Simple steps can keep your dog safe and heartworm free.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

Dogs in the very early stages of Heartworm Disease typically have no discernible signs of infestation.  In a heavily infested dog, symptoms can include, a persistent cough, fatigue after moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.

Detection & Treatment of Heartworm Disease

A blood test done by a veterinarian is needed to confirm heartworm infection.  Most dogs infected with heartworm can be successfully treated. The goal is to kill all adult worms and microfilariaewith. Heartworm infected dogs showing only mild signs have a high success rate with treatment. Patients with evidence of more severe heartworm disease can be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications and mortality is greater.

Stay safe this summer with protection for you and your animals.