Parasites are gross and uncomfortable, but more than that, your pet’s parasites can cause them physical harm. Heartworm infections, which are spread by mosquitoes, can morph over several months into heartworm disease. If untreated, this disease can have an extremely severe impact on a dog’s health and may potentially be fatal. As you think about how you can handle and prevent this disease, keep these five facts in mind:
1. Prevention is good for your dog…and all dogs
There’s a lot of conversation about the importance of prevention when it comes to tackling the problem of heartworms. The monthly dosage of a heartworm preventative works by attacking the larval heartworms that dogs get after mosquito bites. This stops the infection in its tracks for your dog. But this also means that mosquitoes that bite your dog cannot get the larva and pass them on to other dogs. Using the preventative treatment has a ripple effect: Not only will you help your dog, but you’ll lessen the spread of the disease, and help prevent other nearby dogs from being exposed to the infection.
2. Prevention tops treatment
This probably won’t be a surprise, but as with most things in life, prevention is easier than treatment. Where treatment is expensive, uncomfortable, and lengthy, preventative treatments are generally just a monthly chewable tablet. Giving a dog the preventative drug is easy. The hardest part is probably remembering the monthly task, and making the initial appointment at the vet to get a prescription. Also, it helps to have some understanding of what you can expect from heartworm medication for dogs.
3. Can I catch it from my dog?
No. Heartworms spread through mosquito bites. And, if you have two dogs, and one has heartworm disease, the second dog will not catch it from the first. This is true even if both dogs are bit by the same mosquito bite in short succession, since the heartworm larvae needs an incubation period within the mosquito before it can be transmitted to another dog. Note that while humans can get heartworms, it’s very, very rare.
4. From Arizona to Alaska
Since mosquito bites are so vital to the spread of heartworm infections, the disease is most likely to spread in hot, humid states, which are a comfortable environment for mosquitoes. That said, heartworms have been detected in states as dry as Arizona and as chilly as Alaska. Bottom line: All dogs should be given preventive treatment, regardless of where they live. This will also help if you take your dog on a road trip, and wind up in a state where mosquitoes are more likely to thrive.
5. Growing and growing and growing
It’s the female heartworms that get long, and those female heartworm get quite long, growing up to a foot in length. Picture that snaking around in your dog’s heart and lungs, and you get a sense of why heartworm have such a negative impact on a dog’s health. The male heartworms are shorter, reaching about four to six inches.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.