Heartworms are parasitic roundworms that can be transmitted to your dog via mosquito bites. Your dog should be tested by your vet every six months to check him or her for heartworms that were contracted during the previous season, as early detection is the key to properly treating your pet.
Though the risk of mosquito bites is typically heightened during the spring and summer months in Cockeysville, it is important to protect your dog from these pests year round. According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms are diagnosed throughout the year, and the mosquitos that carry the parasites can proliferate even when the weather is cold.
You can put medicine on your pet’s fur that will kill mosquitoes before they bite, and certain flea medicines will also work to ward off mosquitos. Once infected, there are treatments that can be administered, but depending on the seriousness of the infestation, your dog may not survive this process. It can require your pet to receive several injections containing arsenic, as this is designed to kill the parasites.
This corrective measure is more expensive and risky than taking preventative steps, and it can prove to be lengthy, lasting several months. It can also be painful, and the parasite die off can cause inflammation and complications. It can require your pet to forgo most of their exercise for one to three months, and for one million dogs each year in the United States, heartworm treatment will be a necessity.
Heartworms generally require six or seven months to grow to maturity, at which point they can be detected by a heartworm test. Once the larva makes it to the juvenile adult stage, it will migrate to the heart, and this usually will occur within 90 days from the time the organism entered their host. These parasites will continue to live in a dog’s heart for five to seven years or until they die. Heartworms can continue to grow, and female heartworms will pass their microfilaria into the dog’s bloodstream, enabling more worms to grow. Female worms can grow up to 14 inches in length, though the male worms are typically shorter.
It is vital to rid your yard of the stagnant water found in flower pots, gutter spouts, and empty containers to prevent the spread of mosquitoes. You can also use a pet-friendly insecticide outdoors for further protection, and you can administer oral medicines to your pet daily to prevent heartworms. It is important to remember that indoor dogs are not immune to getting heartworms and that they need protection just as an outdoor dog will.
We welcome you to stop by Hunt Valley Animal Hospital to ask any questions you may have about your pets’ health or regarding the prevention of heartworms. Our friendly staff is available to help you, and we look forward to serving you and your pet.