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How to Protect Your Dog from Heartworm

July 01, 2020

Heartworm can be a serious danger to your dog at many times of the year, but cases are even more common in the hot summer months when mosquitoes are most active. It’s important that your pooch stays protected! Below, your Bourne, MA veterinarian tells you how to keep Fido safe.

How Does a Dog Get Heartworm?

Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes. These pests pick up immature forms of heartworm, known as microfilariae, which develop into heartworm larvae inside the mosquito. When the mosquito bites a dog, those larvae are transmitted into the dog’s bloodstream, where they develop into adult worms and begin migrating through bodily tissue toward the heart and lungs.

What are the Symptoms?

For many months after the initial infestation, a dog probably won’t show any symptoms. This is one of the reasons the disease is so dangerous! Once symptoms do start appearing, they include lethargy, appetite loss, a persistent cough, respiratory trouble, weight loss, and—if treatment isn’t administered—heart failure and even death. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it’s time to see the vet.

How is Heartworm Treated?

First, your vet must take a blood sample to see if your dog is heartworm-positive. If the test is positive, confirming the presence of heartworms, treatment will be started. In most cases, different medicines will be given to kill off various forms of the worms (ivermectin to kill off the microfilariae, and melarsomine for the adult worms, in most instances). Note that this process is time-consuming, perhaps taking several weeks or months, and comes with risks. A dog undergoing treatment for heartworms must be monitored closely and kept at a low activity level so as not to over-stress the heart.

How Can Heartworm Be Prevented?

Clearly, preventing heartworm in the first place is far preferable to dealing with an infestation after the fact. All it takes is keeping your pooch on a high-quality heartworm medication. These medicines kill off the immature worms before they have the chance to develop into adults. Some come in pill or tablet form and are given by mouth, while some are topical gels or ointments that get applied to the skin. There are even injectable heartworm preventatives given at your vet’s office.

Does your dog need a heartworm preventative? Do you have questions about the disease or prevention process? Give your Bourne, MA veterinary clinic a call to learn more.


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East Sandwich, MA 02537
(508) 888-2774

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