Q: How do dogs get heartworms?
A: Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. There’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. That’s why prevention is so important. The bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease. It takes about seven months, once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length, can live 5-7 years, and a dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.
A: For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog. By making sure that you give your pet a monthly table of his/her heartworm medication.
Q: Can I buy my heartworm medication online or from my local retail store?
A: We believe strongly in a doctor-patient relationship. Most manufacturers of heartworm preventive medication strictly sell their products to licensed veterinarians. Therefore, pet medications purchased from any dealer other than a veterinary office are not guaranteed by the manufacturer to be authentic or effective. This is because the manufacturer must adhere to stringent shipping conditions to maintain the efficacy of their products. Online pharmacies generally purchase from third parties, not from the manufacturer. The client who buys from a source other than their pet’s veterinarian will not have these quality control standards in place. This is why manufacturers will not guarantee their product unless purchased through a veterinary office.
Q: Can I skip giving my dog his preventive during colder months, when there aren’t any mosquitoes?
A: The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention. One reason is, there’s already a serious problem with people forgetting to give their dogs the heartworm preventives. It’s a universal problem. If you use it year-round and you miss a month, your dog will probably still be protected. But if you miss more than one or two months, your dog could become infected.
The other reason not to stop is that many of the preventives today also include an intestinal parasite control for roundworms, whipworms, or tapeworms. You want your dog to be protected against those at all times.
Finally, parasites can live in warm burrows or underneath your home. So when the weather is above 32 degrees, even in winter, the parasitic threat is active.
Q: If my dog has heartworms, what’s the treatment? How much will it cost?
A: The damage that is done to the pet and the cost of the treatment is much more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease. The drug used to treat heartworms with is called Immiticide, which is an injectable arsenic-based product. The dog is given several injections that will kill the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart.
The safest way to treat heartworms includes an extensive pre-treatment workup, including X-rays, blood work, and all the tests needed to establish how serious the infection is. This treatment can run up to $3,000. In addition, the pet needs extreme exercise restricted for several weeks.
Q: If my dog gets heartworms, and is treated for them, can he get them again?
A: Yes, a dog can always contract heartworms again. This is why prevention is so important.