Dog Heartworm Disease - Prevention & Treatment of Dog Heartworms

What is heartworm disease and how can it affect my dog?

Simply put, heartworm disease is an illness spread by mosquitoes. And just because you have more of an indoor dog doesn't mean that it can't happen. Mosquitoes can fly into your house and bite your pet and inject the larvae there. That can lead to really serious heart and lung effects. It can really hurt the circulation of your blood, which can systematically really affect the dog.

Dr. Lander
Advanced Animal Care in Richmond

How would my dog catch heartworms?

Mosquitoes bite the animal and inject the larvae that way.

Can dog heartworm be prevented?

Absolutely. I will say no prevention is 100%, but the best chance is by receiving prevention, whether it be orally, topically, or an injectable from your veterinarian.

What are the signs in my dog that would indicate they may have heartworms?

Early on, you'd see weight loss and lethargy—those are the big ones to look for.

What are some middle to late-stage symptoms of heartworms?

Abnormal heart and lung sounds, especially if we hear a heart murmur. There could also be an enlarged liver.

What can be done to stabilize my dog's heartworm disease?

Come to a veterinarian. That's where it would be diagnosed. We’ll stabilize it by providing oxygen support, fluids to help perfusion, and just giving the dog general treatment ASAP.

How soon should I bring in my dog to see a veterinarian for heartworm prevention?

That first puppy vaccine appointment is really a good time to start prevention. There are ones labeled for anywhere from six to eight weeks.

How will a veterinarian diagnose if my dog has heartworms?

It's a simple blood test, at least here It's called a SNAP test, 4DX. We just take a few drops of blood and drop them into a reagent. It runs. It's about 10 minutes and we have our diagnosis.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworm so important?

All of that's really important because the symptoms can get a lot worse and it can be fatal if it continues to progress.

How long does treatment take?

It takes months. We have to give multiple injections certain months apart. We have to do a regimen of antibiotics to kill Wolbachia, a symbiotic bacteria. It's all silly. There has to be strict cage rest, as in no strenuous activity. It's a lot going on.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 202-3641, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Heartworm Disease - FAQs

Dr. Lander
Advanced Animal Care in Richmond

How is heartworm prevented in dogs?

The best way to prevent heartworm disease in dogs is by getting a product from your veterinarian, whether it be orally, topically administered by you at home, or injections that can be administered by your veterinarian every six to 12 months.

What are the different types of dog heartworm prevention?

The actual components or the medical components of it may differ, depending on the type of prevention that you're giving. But like I said earlier, the heartworm prevention types are oral, topical, or injections by your vet.

When should I start heartworm prevention for my dog?

Some are labeled for around six to eight weeks, so that first puppy vaccine appointment is a great time for a lot of things.

How effective is heartworm prevention?

No prevention is 100%, but the ones prescribed by your veterinarian give you your best chance of preventing something like heartworm disease. And a lot of those are actually backed by multimillion-dollar companies that really believe in research and their products.

Does my dog still need a heartworm test if they're on prevention?

Absolutely. Kind of back to that point of prevention not being 100%, we recommend an annual heartworm test, whether it be during your annual wellness blood work or that snap test. The latter is a very quick test involving getting just a few drops to rule out that they don't have heartworm disease. If they do, the treatment's very different than prevention.

Can prevention be used to clear a heartworm infection?

Technically yes, and it's called the slow kill method. It is not recommended anymore. There's a totally different way of treating that now that your veterinarian has to do in a hospital.

Are there any holistic or over-the-counter dog heartworm preventatives?

I cannot say for sure if there are. I'm sure that there are, but I don't know what they are, and I definitely don't recommend them.

Can I do anything in my dog's environment to reduce the risk of heartworm?

You can help reduce the mosquitoes present by limiting their access to getting inside, such as having a screened-in door. At the end of the day, however, they're still going to be present, so that's why prevention is key.

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

If you miss a dose of your heartworm prevention for your dog, get them back on prevention ASAP—speak to your veterinarian. Six months from that time that you missed is really the only time that we're going to be able to detect whether or not your dog was infected during that period. Nonetheless, if you want to be sure, you can get a heartworm test done then.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 202-3641, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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