Spring is on its way and so are the mosquitoes. With the threat of mosquitoes comes the possibility of dogs being infected with heartworms. Heartworm disease is contracted through a bite from a mosquito that is carrying the heartworm larva. The larva is transmitted to the mosquito when it bites an already infected dog. The larva enters the dog's bloodstream and matures into adults. The adults can migrate to the heart and lungs. With the heartworms entering the heart and lungs, this can lead to the heart having a difficult time pushing blood through the body. Because of the extra work the heart has to do, the right side starts to become enlarged. If the worm burden is too great they may start entering the lungs. Some clinical signs that may be seen are exercise intolerance and coughing. The treatment can be fatal depending on how many worms are in the heart and lungs as well as the damage the worms caused to the heart.
So, it is essential to have your dog tested yearly for heartworm disease and on heartworm preventative during mosquito season or year round. Some heartworm preventatives like Heartgard Plus have a medication that prevents certain intestinal parasites. These products are recommended year round. The heartworm preventative comes in beefy chewy tablets that dogs tend to eat like treats. If your dog is allergic to beef-flavored products, don't worry, they do carry tablets as well. A lot of the products out there will have stickers so you can place them on your calendars. You can even visit their Web site to get e-mail reminders.
Heartworm testing and prevention should be an essential part of your dog's healthcare, which can easily be obtained through your local veterinarian. Having a simple blood test once a year can save your dog's life.
Dodin is a vet at Higgins Animal Clinic, ( 773 ) 525-0472.