Heartworm disease is a mosquito-transmitted disease that affects thousands of dogs each year. Heartworm disease in dogs is quite common in most Australian states but the further north you travel the more prevalent the disease becomes. It is usual for dogs not on preventative treatments to become infected by heartworm during their lifespan.
After injection by a mosquito, adult worms eventually start to grow inside a dogs heart and lungs, causing very serious damage. Due to their large size, they become a major barrier to the free passage of blood through the heart and eventually this causes the heart to enlarge and weaken.
Most dog owners do not realise their pet has a problem until the disease is well advanced. It is only in the later stages, when the disease is difficult to treat, that the animals manifest the typical signs of advanced heartworm disease, such as a deep cough, weight loss, listlessness and weakness. Other symptoms may include a lack of appetite, shortness of breath and blood in the urine.
While heartworm is an extremely difficult disease to treat, it is very simple to prevent.
There are several choices:
- Monthly heartworm medications are very popular and come in the form of either a tablet (chewable or regular) or a spot on preparation that is absorbed through the skin. Some monthly heartworm medications will include other active ingredients that also control worms and fleas. All monthly preparations are 100% effective providing the correct dose is given for the dogs’ weight and that it is given monthly without missing any treatments for the dog’s entire life. Remember there can be mosquitos all year round.
- An attractive alternative to monthly heartworm medications has been the advent of the yearly heartworm injection. This eases the burden of remembering monthly medications and is now extremely popular, safe and also 100% effective. It is best staged with your dogs annual vaccinations and can be started as early as 3 months of age although due to the rapid growth of puppies an extra injection is given at 6 months of age.