Heartworm, which can live in a dog’s heart, blood vessels, and lungs, might not seem like a big threat to your pet. But it happens to about 1 in 100 dogs in the U.S. every year, so it’s not that rare.
If your dog has enough worms, it can damage the heart and blood vessels in a way that can’t be fixed. This can lead to heart failure and pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to your pet’s lungs.
That means it’s more important than you might have thought to protect your dog from this parasite, no matter how old, what breed, or where in the country you live. People are becoming more aware of their dog’s health and keep getting them checked for heartworms and other diseases.
The best prevention for this disease is pills like Heartgard plus chewables for dogs. Some of them also treat and control five different species of intestinal worms in addition to preventing the silent threat of heartworm disease.
Still, there are a lot of myths about heartworms that keep people from taking care of this part of their dog’s health.
Do you believe in a commonly mistaken idea? Read on to find out more:
Myth: Heartworm Is Not A Problem Unless You Live In A Warm Place
Fact: Mosquitoes are the ones who spread heartworm. So, warm, humid places are definitely breeding grounds for the disease, but mosquitoes are found in all 50 U.S. states. In the United States, there are around 200 different kinds of mosquitoes. They all live in different places, act in different ways, and bite different kinds of animals.
If a mosquito with heartworm larvae bites your dog, just one bite is all it takes for the larvae to move into your dog, move to the heart and lungs, grow into full-grown heartworms, and start making more of themselves. These worms can get as long as one foot.
Myth: Taking Preventive Medicine Once A Month Is Tedious
Fact: Heartworm is best treated by keeping it from happening in the first place, which is easy to do. There are both oral and topical formulas for heartworm prevention that are absorbed into the bloodstream.
You and your vet can decide which method is best for you and your pet. If you think you might forget to give this medicine once a month, ask about a way to give it through an injection instead. Most of the time, a vet only gives heartworm shots once or twice a year.
You should also talk to your vet about the pros and cons of getting a product that protects against fleas, ticks, and heartworms all at once. These formulas that include everything you need might be convenient, but they tend to be pricey. If you don’t want to use a product that protects against heartworm, fleas, and ticks, you can compare the prices of individual products.
Myth: Prevention Is Just A Waste Of Time
Fact: Heartworm infections are not as easy to treat as you might think, especially if they are bad.
Most likely, you won’t have any symptoms at first. But as the number of worms grows, your dog’s lungs will become inflamed, and he or she will likely start coughing or feel very tired. If it gets bad enough, your dog might stop being able to breathe and die. Heartworms can also damage the liver, which can lead to bloody or dark urine, an enlarged abdomen, and even death.
If you find the infection in time, you will need to give your dog melarsomine injections for a few months. This medicine must be given slowly and carefully because killing the worms too quickly can hurt your dog. The dead worms slowly break down in the lungs. (They don’t come out in your poop like parasites in your gut do.) Until the treatment is done, you’ll need to limit your dog’s activity because overworking their lungs can be dangerous.
When heartworm infection is very bad, emergency surgery may be needed: In order to save your dog’s life, a vet may have to put it to sleep and try to pull worms out of its blood vessels. That’s expensive, very invasive, and could put your pet’s life in danger.
Myth: My Dog Doesn’t Need To Be Tested If It’s Taking Medicine
Fact: Preventive treatments are very effective, but “no preventive is 100% effective, and early infections in dogs may not cause any symptoms, so testing once a year is recommended.” There are also signs that the vaccines we have may not be working as well as they used to. This makes testing even more important.
Your dog may also need to be tested if you forgot to give them their regular heartworm prevention or if they are switching to a new kind. The good news is that even if a dog on preventive medicine tests positive, they probably don’t have a lot of worms. So it should be a lot easier to treat them than if they weren’t taking any preventives.
Is a new dog or puppy on the way? Athe shelter or breeder if the dog has been tested for heartworms recently. If they haven’t, it’s a good idea to have your vet check before you start (or keep up) prevention.
Myth: My Dog’s Heartworms Won’t Affect My Health In Any Way
Fact: Although the majority of people do not develop heartworm, the majority of heartworm preventatives also offer protection against roundworms and hookworms, which are unquestionably spread among humans.
Because of the way that heartworm infections manifest in the bloodstream, the signs and symptoms are different in animals and people. Heartworms will not always reach maturity in a human host. Thus, you might not always show any symptoms. Human heartworm infection symptoms and indicators can include an unusual cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, etc.
Heartworm treatment costs a lot of money and takes at least two months of strict rest. When heartworm infection is very bad, emergency surgery may be needed. In order to save your dog’s life, a vet may have to put it to sleep and try to pull worms out of its blood vessels. That’s expensive, very invasive, and could put your pet’s life in danger.