While we are always happy to welcome back spring and summer each year, it does signal more than just the return of the beautiful weather. Where dogs are concerned, it also sparks the start of heartworm season, which every owner should be aware of. If you’re new to owning a dog and you’re wondering what you need to know about heartworms, this guide will help take you through the basics so you’re well-informed.
What is Heartworm?
Heartworm is a disease that can be fatal in animals, and occurs in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Wild species are also carriers of heartworm, such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes. A heartworm is, in fact, a worm that can be a whole foot long that lives in the animal’s lungs, heart, and blood vessels. It can lead to lung disease, severe damage of the animal’s organs, and even heart failure in the worst cases.
It doesn’t matter what the age of the animal is, they are all at risk of contracting it. The disease is spread through the bite of mosquitos that are carrying blood from another infected host. A heartworm is able to live for anywhere from five to seven years in a dog, and the dog may have more than one worm living in it.
When is Heartworm Season?
No matter where you live in the United States, heartworm exists. Some areas are notorious for it and have much more reported cases, while others have relatively low numbers. Heartworm season takes place anywhere from April 1 to Dec. 1, depending on where you live and what the climate is. Because it is transmitted by mosquitos, it is dependent on the mosquito season.
How Will I Know if My Dog Has Heartworm?
There are a few signs that your dog may display if he/she is suffering from heartworm disease. These can include vomiting from time to time, coughing, weight loss, a loss of appetite, and symptoms that mimic asthma. You may also notice worms in dog poop. If the heartworm has progressed and is more serious, the symptoms will be much more pronounced.
If any of these are occurring and you suspect your dog may have heartworm, you will want to have them tested by your vet. A simple blood test is all they will need.
What are the Treatment Options?
When it comes to heartworm, the best solution is prevention. Giving your dog heartworm medication each and every year, properly and on time, is the very best thing you can do. While these medications cannot guarantee 100% results, they are incredibly effective and are in almost all cases successful at preventing the disease.
Should your dog contract heartworm disease, the good news is that there are treatments available that can stabilize the dog and then kill off the worms. Your vet will be able to discuss the options with you.
Be Aware of the Risks
As a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to protect your dog and be aware of any risks to their health. Heartworm is a very serious disease that is also highly preventable when given the right medication.