Heartworm Disease in Dogs: Why Preventative Medicine Works for Oak Park Pet Owners
Have you ever wondered why you have to give your dog a heartworm treatment every month, or why your vet regularly tests for heartworms? Unfortunately, heartworms are a severe problem for dogs in Oak Park, and they can lead to major complications and even death when they are left untreated.
Understanding the heartworm problem is crucial, especially when you have a dog. In order to be a responsible pet owner in Oak Park, IL and take good care of your favorite furry family member, you should brush up on everything you need to know about heartworms—and why it’s so important to medicate and test your dog on a regular basis.
All About Heartworms in Dogs for Oak Park Pet Owners
You may have heard something before about heartworms coming from mosquitoes, and that is true. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it carries the worms from the dog’s bloodstream along with it.
And then, when it bites a healthy dog, it deposits those heartworms into the second dog’s bloodstream. If the second dog has not been medicated, then the worms will eventually travel through his bloodstream and reach his heart.
Where Are Heartworms Found?
Heartworms do live in a dog’s heart, but they can also live in the blood vessels and lungs. This is just one of the many reasons why they are so dangerous.
A dog with heartworms that is not receiving any kind of management or treatment will eventually suffer from organ failure as the worms block blood flow to the organs of his body.
Are Only Dogs Affected by Heartworms?
Dogs aren’t the only animals that can contract heartworms. Cats can also have them, and so can some rodents. However, the disease is much more prominent in dogs, and therefore it’s much more important to have dogs regularly checked.
Are Heartworms Contagious?
Although heartworms aren’t contagious, it’s not impossible for one infected dog to spread them to another, nearby dog through mosquito bites. For example, if one dog has heartworms and lives in the same house, sharing the same yard as a healthy dog, it’s not impossible for a mosquito to bite the sick dog and then transfer the heartworms to the healthy dog.
In fact, it’s a lot more common than it would be in other situations, since the two dogs live in such close contact with each other.
Heartworms cannot be spread to humans, however, so it is okay to interact with and care for a dog with heartworms.
Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs to Look Out For
In the early stages of heartworm disease, dogs may not have any symptoms, or they may have a slight cough that isn’t very noticeable. This cough may worsen over time as the disease progresses.
As the situation continues, dogs may become very weak and tired after just a little bit of activity, and they may have trouble breathing. The majority of dogs who have heartworm disease that is left unmanaged will eventually die, either due to organ failure or due to worms clogging up the heart so badly that it can no longer function.
How Does Heartworm Medication Help Dogs in Oak Park?
Medication can be given to the dog internally as a pill that can either be chewed or swallowed. It may also be given as an injection by the vet.
This medication kills the larvae of heartworms. Any larvae that have been in your dog’s body for up to two months will be killed off by a dose of preventative medication.
I Forgot to Give My Dog Their Heartworm Pill, Now What?
If you accidentally forget to give your dog a heartworm preventative for more than two months, your vet will require you to have them tested again to make sure there are no adult worms present in his/her body.
Make Sure You Get Your Dog Tested for Heartworms in Oak Park
Before being medicated for heartworms, a dog has to be tested. This is to determine whether or not he already has heartworms that need to be managed instead. If a dog has heartworms and takes a heartworm preventative, it could be fatal, as the dog’s body may react badly to the combination of these two elements.
Your vet will draw blood from your dog and check it for a type of protein that is given off by heartworms. If the protein is present, the vet will be able to tell that the dog has a heartworm infestation. If the protein is not present, then your dog will be cleared of heartworms and will be able to be medicated safely.
When Should My Dog Get Tested for Heartworms?
A puppy can be tested for heartworms as young as seven months, and it’s important to go ahead and get started testing your dog as close as possible to this age.
Dogs should be tested at least once a year, even if they are already on preventative medication. This is to ensure that the medication is still doing its job and that the dog is still free of heartworms.
Even if you live in an area without many mosquitoes—and even if your area is mosquito-free during the winter—you should continue to treat your dog year-round with a heartworm preventative. This will keep any unfortunate accidents from occurring and will keep your dog healthy and happy, too.
Stay Up-to-Date on Heartworm Prevention for Your Dog in Oak Park, IL
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when considering the impact of heartworms and heartworm medication on your dog. This is an issue that is not to be taken lightly, so be sure you understand just how critical it is to treat your dog regularly for heartworms. Ideally, you should understand this before you ever adopt a dog, as it will factor into the monthly cost of keeping your pet.
However, it’s not too late! Even if your dog has never been tested or medicated before, you can take them to the vet and get a test scheduled. From there, your vet will advise you as to what you can do next. Hopefully, your dog will be free and clear of any heartworm infection, and they will be able to start medication right away. Even if they do have heartworms, this isn’t a death sentence, and it can be managed with the right treatment plan. Working with your vet in Oak Park, IL is key to making sure your dog stays healthy for as long as possible.