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Heartworm Disease & 4Dx screenings

If there was one little pill that could save your dog’s life, wouldn’t you use it? What if the “pill” was tasty like a treat? If you answered yes! Of course! then I hope your next question is, “what is this magical medication?” The answer is Heartgard. Heartgard is a monthly oral medication that protects against Heartworm disease. April is National Heartworm disease awareness month and Lyme disease prevention month. Mountain View Veterinary Services uses a simple blood test that, in less than 10 minutes, we can determine whether a dog has Heartworm disease, Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis or Ehrlichiosis. Lyme, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis are all tick-borne disease that I’ll discuss next week. This week will be all about Heartworm disease.

Heartworms are transmitted from infected mosquitoes, which means your pet doesn’t even have to be outside to be infected! Heartworm larvae travels through the blood system until it reaches the heart and lungs. If left untreated, the heartworms multiply causing lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries.

Signs of Heartworm disease can be subtle and difficult to detect until its later stages. Once the heartworms make changes to the dog’s heart, lungs, and arteries, signs of coughing, difficulty breathing, and sluggishness can develop. If left untreated, the animal can die but even treatment once a pet has Heartworm disease can be deadly. That is why prevention is essential.

It is recommended that dogs stay on Heartgard year-round since mosquitoes can still be active in 50°F weather. Heartgard can be given to puppies as young as 6 weeks depending on their weight (usually over 5 pounds). Once the puppy is 6 months old, they need to be tested for Heartworm disease. This is because it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive for Heartworm disease. After 6 months of age, the dog will need to be tested yearly. This is to ensure the medication is working properly. If an adult dog has never had a heartworm preventative or if you have forgotten to give a dose for a few weeks, then the dog needs to be heartworm tested prior to giving any heartworm prevention.  This is because if your dog has become infected with heartworms and you give it the medication your dog could become extremely sick. Another reason MVVS recommends Heartgard is because it also treats and controls Hook and Round worms. It is one product that covers 3 parasites! What a great deal!!

Dogs are not the only pets that can get Heartworm disease. Cats and ferrets can also get Heartworm disease. The amount of infected cats and ferrets with Heartworm disease is unknown due to the infrequency of testing these species. According to Companion Animal Parasite Council, in 2015: 1 out of every 257 dogs tested in Franklin County  and 1 out of 302 dogs in Cumberland County tested positive for Heartworm disease. You might look at those numbers and feel like that isn’t a very high incident of infected dogs but when you compare the numbers from 2011, there is a significant increase. In 2011,  Franklin County’s numbers were 1 out of 398 and Cumberland County was 1 out of 555. The data hasn’t come in yet for 2016, but I guarantee the numbers are only going to get worse.

The American Heartworm Society has a lot more wonderful information on heartworms and Heartworm disease. Show your pet how much you love them by protecting them against Heartworm disease.

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