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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Importance of Heartworm Prevention

The Importance of Giving Heartworm Prevention All Year Round

Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, which affects both dogs and cats. Due to our temperate climate in Florida, mosquitoes can be seen at various times all year long. I have swatted mosquitoes in my home in January and February, which shows how resilient these insects can be. Even slightly above freezing temperatures will cause otherwise dormant mosquito eggs and pupae to hatch and become active.

When a mosquito bites an animal, the larva, or immature form of the heartworm is deposited on the skin, and from there makes a journey to the bloodstream, which takes 30 days, eventually taking it to the heart, where it will mature to an adult heartworm. This is the reason that heartworm preventatives can be given once per month…they kill the immature heartworm that is migrating through the skin. But, once the larva reaches the bloodstream, the preventative is ineffective. Therefore, it is very important to give the heartworm medication on a strict monthly schedule.

Heartworm disease can be hidden for a long time, sometimes taking years before symptoms appear. One of the first things that dog owners will notice is a decrease in exercise tolerance, which means there is a shorter period before the dog gets tired and stops playing or running. As the disease progresses, a chronic cough may be heard and an even greater exercise intolerance may be noticed. Other symptoms may include weight loss, lethargy due to pneumonia, and signs associated with congestive heart disease. Cats will have episodes of sneezing and coughing, and may eat less and become more isolated from their owners.

Annual heartworm testing for dogs is very important, even if you are giving heartworm preventative every month of the year. Sometimes the preventative will be given late or incorrectly applied to the skin, as in the case of topical products. This is why a heartworm test should be performed yearly in conjunction with a check up and vaccinations.

Treatment for active heartworm infection in dogs consists of a series of injections given in the muscle of the back. This is usually a painful procedure but the pain can be controlled with analgesics and other medications that are given at the time of treatment and at home for several days afterwards. Unfortunately, at this time the injectable medication used for heartworm treatment is on back order. This means that even if a pet is diagnosed as heartworm positive, DPC will be unable to treat for an undetermined amount of time. Now, more than ever, owners need to be diligent about giving their pet's heartworm prevention monthly without interruption.

There are many types of heartworm preventatives available; in both pill and topical liquid form. These products include - Interceptor, Tri-Heart, Advantage Multi, and Trifexis. All of which are available at DPC Veterinary Hospital or via our online pharmacy on our website. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what is the best product for your pet. Remember, heartworm prevention is a prescription so a current exam, heartworm test and doctor-patient relationship within our facility is required in order to purchase through us.

Giving heartworm preventative all year is very important for the health of your pet due to the prevalence of mosquitoes and other parasites in Florida. Yearly testing for dogs is also necessary to ensure that treatment will never have to be a necessity for these important companions and family members. If you would like to discuss heartworm prevention or make an appointment please call 954-989-9879 today!


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6902 Stirling Road
Davie, FL 33024
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