A heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a type of parasitic roundworm that can be transmitted only from one animal to another by mosquitoes. The worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring once they’re transmitted to the host animal.
In an infected dog, adult worms produce offspring called microfilaria (immature worms) that circulate in the animal’s bloodstream and infest blood vessels, the pulmonary artery, and the heart.
When a mosquito bites an already-infected animal, it ingests the microfilaria, which develop and grow into “infective stage” larvae over a period of about two weeks while still inside the mosquito.
When this infected mosquito bites another dog, the infective larvae are transferred into the new host, after which it takes around six months for them to mature into adult heartworms.
Upon maturing, heartworms can live for up to five to seven years in dogs and grow up to a foot long. Infected dogs are known to be hosts to several hundred heartworms at a time. Although this can be fatal, it’s important to know that heartworm prevention is straightforward and safe.
Heartworm Prevention for Dog Parents
While all U.S. states have experienced an incidence of heartworm, it’s more prevalent in certain regions.
Several types of medications can help prevent heartworm. For dog parents, following the advice of a qualified vet is the simplest and most effective method to counter heartworm disease.
Vets have a good idea about parasites that are common to the location where they practice and can offer expert dog health advice accordingly. Dog parents can also consult their vet about the best product to help prevent heartworm disease.
A vet can provide advice on the health of the dog based on blood tests that can determine the presence of heartworms. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm prevention in dogs is a year-round process.
Medications for heartworm treatment are available only by prescription from a qualified vet. Different types of preventives for heartworm are available, such as topical applications, chewable pills that can be given every month, and injections that are given every six months or once a year. There are no natural preventives.
Preventives are reasonably priced and can be administered easily. Some are effective only against heartworms, whereas other medicines protect animals from additional parasites such as fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms.
Important Dog Health Advice: Focus on Prevention
For dog parents, heartworms are a significant concern. Pets depend on their parents for protection from such infections. The American Heartworm Society has several recommendations for heartworm prevention in dogs:
- Have the dog tested by a qualified vet for infection every year. Once a dog is infected, it usually takes six months before a standard test can detect it.
- Give the pet their preventive medication on time regularly. It’s important to follow the prescribed schedule for heartworm treatment, whether it’s a monthly, semi-annual, or yearly dose.
- Ensure that the product being used is genuine. Heartworm preventives must be prescribed by a vet.
Fuzzy is here to help 24/7 via Live Vet Chat and can answer any questions or concerns pet parents have about dog heartworm prevention.