Protect Your Pet from Heartworms

Spring is officially upon us, and that means it’s time to enjoy some time in the great outdoors with our canine companions. There are plenty of things to love about this time of year, but it’s important to be mindful of the parasites and pathogens that can be picked up by your dog when playing outside as well.

Heartworm disease is a potentially deadly condition that affects dogs throughout the United States. As the name implies, it’s caused by foot-long parasitic worms that invade the heart, lungs and blood vessels of dogs, cats and other mammals. Wild canines like foxes and coyotes are natural carriers of heartworms, so it’s important to protect our domestic dogs from them as well. Heartworm eggs are often transmitted from the bloodstreams of wild animals to pets via mosquito bites. Likewise, it’s especially important to be on the lookout for heartworm disease symptoms in hot, humid climates where mosquitos thrive.

Early symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. In more advanced stages of the disease, dogs may develop swollen bellies as a result of a fluid buildup in the abdomen. Later stages are also often accompanied by labored breathing and bloody urine.

The good news is, there are preventative medications you can get from your veterinarian to protect your dog from heartworm disease. If you live in an area prone to heartworm and your dog spends time outside unsupervised, you should seriously consider asking your vet about heartworm prevention medication. If you think your dog might be exhibiting symptoms of heartworm disease, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take them to your vet for a checkup as well.

To learn more about heartworm prevention, testing and treatment, check out the American Heartworm Society’s information page here.

By: Jagpal S. Deo, DVM

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