Heartworm disease hits close to home for me. Many of you have met our “clinic dog”, Bella when visiting the office. I adopted Bella in March of 2016. She had not received heartworm prevention for years. As expected, she tested positive for heartworms and was forced to undergo treatment. Here’s a little info on how she contracted heartworms.
HOW DOES A DOG GET HEARTWORMS?
Dogs are infected with heartworms when bitten by infected mosquitos. Heartworm infections have been diagnosed in hundreds of countries and all 50 states in the US. Heartworms are carried by many different species of mosquitoes, all of which are active at different times throughout the year. Because of this, the American Heartworm Society recommends heartworm preventative administration all months of the year. This is especially important in states like North Carolina. Unfortunately, our state has a very high prevalence of heartworm disease. The presence of heartworm positive dogs also increases the chances that your dog may contract heartworms. Mosquitoes become infected after biting a heartworm positive host.
HOW CAN I PREVENT HEARTWORM DISEASE?
Every month your dog is exposed to heartworms. When an infected mosquito bites your dog, it injects microfilariae, or “baby” heartworms. If given a proper microfilaricidal drug, also known as heartworm prevention, every 30 days, you kill the microfilariae. However, even one missed month can result in your dog becoming heartworm positive. All dogs are at risk for contracting heartworm disease…even dogs that spend the majority of their life indoors. Bottom line, your dog can contract this fatal disease from the bite of only one infected mosquito.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG IS HEARTWORM POSITIVE?
Back to Bella’s story…Bella was unlucky. She did not receive appropriate heartworm prevention. She was forced to undergo Immiticide treatment. Immiticide is a drug called Melarsomine. This is the only medication approved to kill adult heartworms. Immiticide is a very painful, deep injection in the musculature of the spine. Administration of these injections requires anesthesia. Bella received three of these injections over a span of two months. For Bella, this was a tough two months.
WHAT HAPPENS IF HEARTWORM DISEASE GOES UNTREATED?
Heartworm disease is 100% fatal. After the infected mosquito bites your dog, the microfilariae mature. Over about 6-8 months, they mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms live in the vessels of the heart and lungs. As heartworm disease progresses, your dog will begin to cough due to the parasites in the pulmonary vessels. As the heartworm burden grows, the cardiac vessels and eventually the heart become filled with heartworms. Heart failure is inevitable.
THE END OF BELLA’S STORY
Bella is now heartworm negative. She has lasting lung and heart abnormalities from her previous infection. However, she is finally free of these parasites. Heartworm infections are one of the only diseases that are 100% preventable. For about $8-10 per month, Bella’s entire ordeal could have been prevented. Please be sure that your dog is protected year-round. Their life depends on it.
by Jae H on 10/12/2017
As always, ECVS is wonderful. They fit me in within an hour's notice, helping me to prepare two strays we found to go to a loving home. This is what commitment to, and the true love for animals is all about. From start to finish, their professionalism and compassion are unmatched. It makes my heart full. :] I cannot imagine ever going anywhere else.
by Kathy P on 10/09/2017
Dr. Kuhn and Dr. Mercer are great, the staff here really cares about your pets.