The sun is shining brighter, and the temperatures are rising. Our dogs are wagging their tails a bit more often because the outdoors feels great on their shiny coats compared to the cold of winter.
However, nice weather can also invite some unwanted guests. With spring in full swing and April being Heartworm Awareness Month, it’s a good time to talk about this mosquito-borne disease, since prevention is the best medicine. First, let’s go through what heartworm disease is and what you can do to help protect your dog.
What is Heartworm Disease?
According to the American Heartworm Society, “Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body.”
Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. If left untreated, heartworms can live and reproduce in dogs for five to seven years, causing them to potentially harbor several hundred worms in their bodies.
Dogs can only get heartworms when bitten by an infected mosquito. Since there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected, prevention is absolutely critical.
Heartworm Prevention for Dogs
Heartworms in dogs are easy to prevent, but difficult and costly to treat. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworms. Talk to your veterinarian to see which heartworm prevention method is best for you and your pup. There are a few different types of heartworm prevention medications, including monthly oral pills and a six-month injectable shot. These medications work by eliminating immature stages of the heartworm parasite. Even outside of mosquito season, it’s important to practice heartworm prevention year-round.
Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs
Initially, there likely won’t be symptoms of heartworms in your dog. However, as more worms populate in the heart and lungs, your dog will start showing symptoms, including:
Mild, persistent cough
Fatigue after moderate activity
Unwillingness to exercise
If your dog experiences any warning signs, contact your vet and seek medical attention right away. This disease can cause serious harm the longer it has affected your best friend.
If your dog does have heartworm, they can often be treated successfully depending on the state of the dog and the stage of the disease. The earlier it’s caught, the better. Treatment can cause some side effects and can also be costly. Once heartworm has been detected, your veterinarian will first focus on stabilizing your dog. Then, they will start a treatment plan. Your dog will need to be tested six months after completing the treatment to be sure there is no more infection.
More Ways to Keep Your Best Friend Happy and Healthy
Keeping your furry friend happy and healthy is the key to a smiling face and adorable puppy dog eyes! At Bil-Jac, we’re always thinking about your dog’s health, so he can be your lovable pup day in and day out.
Want to learn more about how you can help your pooch live a healthy lifestyle? Join our Best Friends Club today. Each month, you’ll receive special training tips, informative articles, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac products, so your dog stays happy and healthy.