Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. In Saskatchewan, we are very lucky not to have heartworm despite a significant number of mosquitoes that are present during the summer months. Your dog can be exposed to heartworm if you travel to other provinces. Please contact Cumberland Veterinary Clinic if you will be travelling, so we can discuss your options for heartworm prevention. The best thing that you can do to prevent heartworm is by using monthly preventative medications, which are easily administered at home.
What are the symptoms of heartworm in a dog?
Most dogs will not show symptoms until the infestation is quite advanced. Symptoms can include coughing and exercise intolerance. If the infestation progresses, it can cause serious health issues such as blocking blood flow within the heart.
How do dogs get heartworm?
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes. When the mosquito bites an infected animal, they ingest microscopic baby worms called microfilaria. After a period of 10-14 days, they will mature into larvae, which have now reached the infective stage. When the mosquito bites your dog, the larvae can enter your dog’s bloodstream and eventually, end up in the heart. It can take up to 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. The adult worms can live within your dog’s heart for 5 to 7 years, which means that the worm burden can worsen each summer through continued exposure.
What are the treatment options for heartworms?
Treatment options depend on several factors, such as your dog’s age and the severity of the infestation. The more severe the infestation is, the harder it is to treat and the risk of complications increases. Treatment of heartworm is not something that we deal with regularly, due to the lack of heartworm in our province. If your pet has travelled to other provinces and you are concerned that they have contracted heartworm, please contact Cumberland Veterinary Clinic. The first step is to check a heartworm blood test.
Why is recovery and heartworm treatment challenging?
Treating heartworm is challenging since the worms are residing in the heart. Heartworm treatment requires frequent visits to the clinic and regular follow up. If your dog has tested positive for heartworm, please contact us to discuss your options for treatment.