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Vet checking the heartbeat of a Samoyed with a stethoscope at a vet's office.
Courtesy of elenaleonova/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Question: What are Heartworms and how do they spread?



Answer:
 Mosquitos are not only a pesky annoyance of the warmer summer months, but to our pets they can be deadly. Mosquitoes all across the county can carry heartworm, which means one bite from an infected mosquito can result in heartworm disease in your dog. There is no way to know whether a mosquito is infected, and it often takes several months for heartworm symptoms to appear in dogs. In my years as a veterinarian, I have treated many dogs after they have contracted the disease and sadly some cases were too advanced for treatment to be successful.

In my opinion, awareness, prevention and regular testing is truly the best solution for this dangerous canine disease.

What you need to know about heartworms:

● Heartworm disease (Dirofilaria immitis) affects the heart and arteries surrounding the lungs and is caused by parasitic worms that can grow up to one foot long. If left untreated, the damage to the heart and lungs can be deadly.

● Heartworms are only transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and are not transferred from pet-to-pet or to or from humans.

● Once infected with the heartworm larvae, it can take several months for symptoms to appear in your pet as the worms grow and impact the organs.

● While reported cases vary state to state, Heartworm infected mosquitoes and cases of the disease have been reported in all 50 states.

● The most common symptoms of heartworm disease are: exercise intolerance, coughing, lethargy, changes in appetite and body conditioning. Watch for these symptoms but do not self-diagnose – only your veterinarian can test and diagnose.

● Heartworm does not discriminate – all dog breed types are susceptible.

● If found early, this is a treatable illness. In later stages, however, treatment is difficult and may be impossible, in which case your vet will guide you in making the best decisions for your pet’s comfort.

● It is recommended to have your dogs on year-round monthly or semi-annual oral prescription treatment. It is affordable and easy to administer with flavored edible chews or topical solutions. Ask your veterinarian what option is best for your dog.

Now that you are aware of Heartworm and the dangers it poses to your dog, speak with your veterinarian today to keep your dog healthy, active and heartworm-free!

For more read: 5 Things to Remember About Heartworm Disease From AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer >>

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