Heartworm Disease … Is Your Dog at Risk?
Article courtesy of Suncoast Pet
By Rick Yocum, Executive Director, Humane Society of Manatee County
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Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease primarily affecting dogs, and it is most prevalent in moist, humid regions along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Canine heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are potentially fatal parasites that infest cardiovascular and respiratory systems of dogs. Heartworm infections have been reported in all 50 states and, on average, 1 in 80 dogs become infected.
Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes. When they bite an animal infected by heartworm, they take a blood meal containing micro-scopic baby heartworms called microfilaria, which than develop into “infective stage” larva over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when this infected mosquito bites another dog, the larva enters the new dog host through the mosquito’s bite wound.
In the early stages of heartworm disease, dogs show little signs of the infection. The longer the infection remains untreated, however, symptoms begin to appear, which can include:
- A mild, persistent cough
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease, and early detection betters your dog’s chances of responding well to treatment and a full recovery.
The fact that there are few—if any—early signs that a dog has been infected with heartworm disease is why regular heartworm testing at your veterinarian’s office is the responsible thing for every pet owner to do. The test requires just a small blood sample from your dog and works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins.
Heartworm testing is simple and quick and should be done twice a year during your dog’s routine visits for preventative care.
The cost of heartworm treat-ment can be significant, which is why every pet owner needs to discuss heartworm prevention with their veterinarian. Heartworm prevention medication can be purchased through your veteri-narian or by prescription through a pet pharmacy. Two common preventatives are Tri-Heart Plus and Heartgard Plus, which are chewable tablets that are administered monthly.
Humane Society of Manatee County Veterinary Clinic, located
at 2415 14th Street W. in Bradenton, offers low-to-moderate cost heartworm treatment (on average $525.00), and a heartworm test is priced at only $15.00. Heartworm prevention is simple, effective and low cost. Call today (941-747-8808, Option #1) to make an appoint-ment for your dog’s basic exam, and schedule a heartworm test at the same time.