The Essential Facts About Heartworm Disease Prevention

Heartworms can be devastating to a dog’s heart. Heartworms are often not detected in a dog until they have reached an advanced stage. At this stage, the heartworms lodge themselves in a dog’s heart, lungs and blood vessels, causing the dog to cough, tire easily, and lose weight. Eventually the worms can lead to congestive heart failure and death. For these reasons, it’s very important that every dog owner understand as much as possible about heartworm disease prevention.

In the past, heartworm disease was found mainly in the southwestern United States. Today, however, it is found in all 50 states. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito; it takes just one bite from an infected mosquito for your dog to become infected with heartworm larvae. Once in your dog’s skin, the larvae make their way to your dog’s heart and grow into adult heartworms. As adults, heartworms can reach 12 inches in length. Left untreated, heartworms will cause cardiac and respiratory problems that can significantly affect your dog’s health and eventually lead to death.

Heartworm treatment is both expensive and risky. Heartworms are treated by injecting an arsenic-based product into a dog’s heart two to three times. The product kills the worms that are currently infecting the dog’s heart. To complete this treatment safely, a veterinarian needs to order costly x-rays, blood work and other tests prior to the administration of the medication. The dog also has to be kept still for a several months after the treatment so that the worms that are dying don’t lead to blockages which can cause death. While treatment is an option, heartworm disease prevention is clearly a better one.

Unlike heartworm treatment, heartworm disease prevention is very simple. There are a wide variety of products available to help dog owners protect their dogs from heartworms. The American Heartworm Association recommends protecting all dogs by using one of these heartworm medications. The medications come in oral and topical forms. Most medications are given on a monthly basis, for less than what it costs to treat yourself to a daily cup of coffee. The medications work by killing heartworms when they are still in a larvae state, thus preventing them from becoming the adult heartworms that wreak havoc on a dog’s body.

Many heartworm medications also tackle other nuisances faced by dog owners. Heartgard Plus for dogs, for example, works as both a heartworm preventative and dewormer of intestinal parasites. One monthly dose of Heartguard Plus protects your dog from heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. This particular heartworm medication comes in beef flavored chewables which make administration of the heartworm medication a breeze.

It is advisable to take your dog to the vet prior to administering a heartworm medication for the first time. Your veterinarian will test your dog for heartworms; this is important because any adult heartworms will need to be treated prior to starting a heartworm prevention medication. Because your dog’s weight will be used to guide dosage, you’ll also want to ensure that you know your dog’s correct weight as well.

Untreated heartworms can damage a dog’s body and lead to death. Treatment for heartworms is costly and risky. There’s little doubt, then, that heartworm disease prevention is the best choice for both you and your dog.

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