Testing for heartworm disease is an important part of your dog’s annual visit. Some people think that we do this by checking stool samples, but in fact, heartworm is a parasite that lives in the blood stream of both dogs and cats, and is spread by mosquitos. It doesn’t survive well or thrive in cats, making testing difficult, but in dogs, we draw a small amount of blood to test for the presence of adult heartworms. Our new heartworm test also screens for three tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme Disease, which is slowly encroaching on our community.
When a dog or cat is bitten by an infected mosquito, microscopic larvae enter the tissues and develop over a period of months. Once mature, they work their way into the chambers of the heart and into the arteries leading to the lungs. Here, as adult heartworms, they can cause severe damage to the lungs and heart muscle, leading to congestive heart failure and eventually death.
Canine heartworm disease is prevalent in the South, as well as in communities along the Ohio River Valley. We treat several cases a year at Beechmont Pet Hospital. Regular testing and the use of preventatives are preferable to having to treat the disease, which is both costly and potentially dangerous for your dog. The American Heartworm Society currently recommends year-round use of preventatives in our region of the country.
At your next visit, please be sure to ask us any questions you may have about heartworm disease and its prevention. Preventatives are available in oral (Sentinel, Trifexis), topical (Revolution), or injectable (ProHeart 6) formulations, and most of them also protect against intestinal parasites and fleas. We will be happy to explain all of your options to you, and to help you arrive at an appropriate parasite prevention strategy for your pet.