How to Prevent and Treat Heartworm Disease in Dogs

April 29, 2016

prevent heartworm disease
You’ve heard about heartworm disease from your dog’s vet, and you probably give your pup a pill once a month to prevent it. But what is heartworm disease, exactly?

Heartworm disease is a really serious and potentially fatal disease in pets, and is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of affected animals. If you think it’s yucky to imagine a huge worm living in your dog’s organs, it gets worse. Heartworms can do a lot of damage in pets that leads to lung disease and heart failure, among other scary side effects. Even after the parasites are gone, a dog’s health and quality of life can be negatively affected by heartworm disease.

For this reason, prevention is the best option to ensure your dog lives a long, happy life. The first step in preventing heartworm disease is to know the signs and symptoms. This way, if your dog is acting unusual, you can get him the care he needs quickly.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

  • A mild persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart. If you notice a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine, take your dog to your nearest emergency vet immediately. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

How to Prevent Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Of course, no pup parent wants to see their dog suffer the above symptoms of heartworm disease. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to ensure your dog never contracts it in the first place.

  • Ask your dog’s vet about heartworm prevention options. Most preventatives come as a pill or a topical medication, and both are equally effective.
  • Be consistent with your dog’s monthly heartworm preventative. If you miss just one month, or give it late, your dog may not be fully protected.
  • Make sure your dog completely swallows his heartworm preventative. Many pup parents find that hiding it the pill a treat disguises the taste and texture.
  • If you use a topical medication, be sure your dog doesn’t rub it off. Refrain from giving your dog a bath for at least 12 hours after application.
  • Get your dog tested annually for heartworm disease, even if he’s on heartworm prevention year-round. Testing ensures the medication is working properly.

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month! If you don’t currently have your dog on a heartworm preventative, now is the perfect time to visit the vet and get a prescription. It’s never too late to protect your pet from suffering the symptoms of this terrible disease.

Did you know? Cats are at risk for heartworm disease, too. Click to learn more about how you can keep your pet safe this spring.

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