What is heartworm?

Heartworm is a microscopic parasite that resembles a worm. It lives inside the vessels or arteries of the heart. These parasites can breed prolifically, with hundreds of heartworms potentially inhabiting an infected animal's heart vessels, leading to severe health issues in the future.

Deija Leighon
Green Dog Veterinary Center

What causes heartworm?

The mosquito is the primary host of the heartworm parasite. A mosquito bites an animal infected with heartworm, incubates the parasite, and then transfers it to another pet when it bites them, causing an infection.

Where is heartworm found?

Heartworm used to be mainly found in areas near coastlines, where mosquitoes are prevalent year-round. However, it has now spread throughout the United States, including areas where it used to be uncommon, such as California.

How is heartworm diagnosed?

Diagnosing heartworm disease is simple and involves a blood test. Veterinarians recommend getting a blood test before starting heartworm prevention treatment. The results can be obtained in as little as 10 minutes if conducted in-house.

How do I know if my dog has heartworm disease?

Some clinical signs that your dog might have heartworm infection include a mild cough and intolerance to exercise. As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms such as an intense cough, puffy limbs, and the sudden appearance of a heart murmur can manifest. Advanced stages of heartworm disease can also lead to issues with other organs, such as liver disease.

How do I prevent heartworm disease?

Preventing heartworm disease is simple and involves administering a once-a-month oral preventative. Many preventatives also protect against fleas and ticks. One such example is Simparica Trio, which combats all three threats with a single monthly tablet.

When should I bring my dog to the veterinarian for heartworm prevention?

It is recommended to wait until your pet is about one year old before starting heartworm prevention treatment. However, you should first have them tested for heartworm before administering any preventatives.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworm important?

Early detection is crucial because advanced stages of heartworm disease can be fatal. If the disease is identified early, it is treatable with injections and other treatment options. The earlier it is detected, the higher the probability of your pet recovering.

Is heartworm common in dogs?

Heartworm is a common disease for dogs in general, but its prevalence can vary depending on geographic location. It used to be less common in California, but it is now becoming more prevalent there as well. Overall, heartworm is a common threat to dogs throughout the United States.

How effective is Simparica Trio for heartworm prevention?

Simparica Trio is highly effective in preventing heartworm, with efficacy rates in the upper 90th percentile. It offers a convenient solution for both pet owners and pets, providing protection against heartworm, fleas, and ticks with a single monthly tablet.

Can I reduce the risk of heartworm by altering my dog's environment?

While eliminating all mosquitoes from the environment would be the most effective way to reduce the risk of heartworm, this is not feasible. Instead, be cautious and aware of your environment, especially during the summer months when mosquitoes are more prevalent. Avoid areas with standing water and high humidity, which can attract mosquitoes.

What should I do if I miss a dose of my dog's heartworm prevention?

If you miss a dose, don't panic. Contact your veterinarian for guidance. Depending on the duration between missed doses, your pet may still be protected. However, it is best to consult with your veterinarian in such cases.

How often should I test my dog for heartworm?

An annual blood test for heartworm is recommended. However, if your dog tests negative for heartworm before starting prevention treatment and consistently receives preventatives, you may consult with your veterinarian about extending the testing interval. Ultimately, the testing frequency will depend on your pet's specific circumstances and the advice of your veterinarian.

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