Canine Heartworm FAQ’s : What you need to know!

Canine heartworm disease is a very real risk for dogs, particularly in our area of the country.  Here are some things you should know!
What is canine heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs. It is caused by parasitic worms living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and ,occasionally, the heart.

How do dogs get heartworms?
Heartworms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. A mosquito bites an infected dog and now carries something called microfilariae – otherwise known as juvenile heartworms. This same mosquito can land on another dog, bite it, and inject the microfilaria into that dog’s bloodstream. If that dog is not on heartworm prevention, then these juvenile heartworms will slowly mature into adult heartworms over a 6 month period and make their way into the dog’s heart. Adult heartworms can cause many health issues, including death.

Are heartworms contagious from dog to dog?
No. A dog cannot contract heartworms directly from another dog.  Heartworms are spread through an infected mosquito bite.

When should I have my dog tested for heartworms?
Dogs should be tested for heartworms YEARLY, and before beginning any prevention program or when changing from one preventative to another.  This validates the product warranty on the prevention that you purchase.
It is required that your dog has updated negative heartworm test on file before prevention can be sold. 
The “prepatent period” (the amount of time it takes for microfilariae) for heartworm disease is about 6 months. During this time, heartworm tests will be negative even if a dog is actually infected. Therefore, puppies younger than 6 months old are not generally tested for heartworms.  Instead, puppies should be started on preventative medication during their initial puppy vaccinations.
Dogs should be at least 6 months old and should get tested yearly after that.

What do I need to do to prevent heartworm infections?
Prevention is the key! It is always cheaper, healthier, and easier to prevent heartworms rather than to treat for them.  At a glance, heartworm testing and prevention can look pricey, but you can buy 7 YEARS of prevention for less than the cost of treating your dog ONE TIME for heartworms.

Do I need to give heartworm prevention all year round?
Absolutely!!  Heartworm prevention works retroactively – meaning, it works by killing what your dog has been infected with in the last 30 days.  This is why it’s so important not to miss a dose.  Missing doses can also affect your product guarantee.  Heartworm prevention companies guarantee their products. However, if your dog has missed doses or has not come in for a heartworm check before switching products, then this can negate any guarantee.

 Is there a treatment for heartworm disease?
Yes, there is a treatment option available for heartworm disease.  Treatment involves admitting your dog into the hospital for several days and then several subsequent visits. If your dog is heartworm positive, treatment is strongly recommended. If you dog needs treatment, please give us a call and we would be happy help.

How do you check for heartworms?
A heartworm test is a simple blood test that we do in-house.  It typically takes around 15 minutes for the test to run completely.

Do I need an appointment for a heartworm check?
Yes! You can give us a call at (270)527-7387 or request an appointment through our website.