Heartgard Clinic

Heartworm Hot Topics

Heartworm Hot Topics

The following Heartworm Hot Topics provide valuable insight on heartworm disease so your staff and clients can stay informed and help protect more pets.

Q: What is heartworm disease?

A: This disease affects dogs and occurs when an infected mosquito bites your dog. The mosquito passes a very immature stage of the heartworm that then matures into adult male and female worms living inside your dog’s major blood vessels in the lungs and the heart. It takes approximately 6-7 months for the worms to mature. The adult worms cause damage to the blood vessels that can lead to severe lung disease and heart failure.

Q: How can I protect my dog from getting heartworms?

A: You can help protect your dog from developing heartworm disease by giving a heartworm preventive prescribed by your veterinarian. It is important you follow the directions of your veterinarian and the product. Your veterinarian will need to perform a simple blood test before starting your dog on prevention and on a yearly basis thereafter.

Q: What does the heartworm test look for?

A: The heartworm test is a simple blood test that detects a protein produced by adult female heartworms. This protein is released by the adult female heartworm into the blood stream of the infected animal.

Q: Which heartworm prevention should I choose for my dog?

A: All heartworm preventive products are highly efficacious when given according to their label directions. The best heartworm preventive product for you and your dog is the one you both will be the most compliant with! Talk with your veterinarian about which one is right for you and your dog.

HEARTGARD® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) helps prevent heartworm disease and treats and controls three species of hookworms and two species of roundworms. HEARTGARD Plus is the Real-Beef Chewable dogs love,1 so it’s easy to give.

1 Freedom of Information: NADA140-971 (January 15, 1993).

Q: My neighbor's dog has heartworms. Will he give them to my dog?

A: It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to infect your dog with heartworms. Your neighbor's heartworm-infected dog is a source of infection for the mosquitoes in your neighborhood. You should make sure you give your dog his heartworm prevention every 30 days.

Q: My dog lives indoors – why does he need heartworm prevention?

A: Since it takes only one bite from an infected mosquito, your dog is at risk for infection any time mosquitoes are around. Even a short visit out to “use the yard” by your dog is enough time for a mosquito to bite. Mosquitoes can be brought into the home when you open/close doors and windows and some types of mosquitoes prefer to live indoors as well. The risk is real regardless of wherever your dog spends his time. This is why it is important that all dogs be on a heartworm preventive.

Q: Is it really that important that I give my dog heartworm prevention the same time each month?

A: Absolutely! All heartworm preventive products work by killing the larval stages that have been picked up from a mosquito bite in the last 30 days. The juvenile and adult life stages of the heartworm are not affected by preventive products. Therefore, it's important to dose your dog every 30 days with his heartworm preventive. If you miss a monthly dose, the heartworm larvae are given the opportunity to reach a mature state that cannot be killed by the preventive. Giving your dog his heartworm preventive on the same date each month will kill the larval stages he acquired since his last heartworm preventive dose.

Q: If I give a heartworm preventive, why do I need to test my dog every year?

A: No heartworm preventive is 100% effective in preventing heartworm disease. Adult heartworms in the lungs and heart cause damage to major blood vessels which can lead to severe lung disease and heart failure. The earlier this disease is detected, the earlier your veterinarian can start treatment. Testing your dog each year should be a part of every dog's preventive wellness check-up.

Q: Heartworm prevention seems pretty expensive. Do I really need to give it year-round?

A: All it takes is one bite by an infected mosquito to infect your dog with heartworms. Prevention is better, and less expensive, than treatment for heartworm disease. Remember, many heartworm preventive products also treat and/or control certain intestinal worms in your dog as well.

Q: My dog hasn't ever been on heartworm preventives before, why now?

A: Heartworm disease is a potentially deadly disease. It is becoming a bigger issue as the disease incidence is growing geographically due to dogs moving around the country. Your dog can become infected with heartworms any time an infected mosquito bites.

Q: Why do I need to give heartworm prevention when there is a treatment for it?

A: Prevention is better and safer than treatment. Irreversible damage begins to occur as soon as immature heartworms enter a dog's heart and lungs. Treatment requires expert care from your veterinarian and can be expensive. Complications can occur during treatment, some of which can be severe.

Q: What will my dog look like if he has heartworm disease?

A: The most common signs in a dog with heartworm disease are no signs at all. In early stages of the disease, your dog may not have any outward signs of infection. The progression and severity of heartworm disease depend upon several factors, including how many adult heartworms the dog has as well as how active the infected dog is. As the disease worsens, respiratory and heart-related issues can develop including coughing, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. That's why it is so important to be tested annually and use a heartworm preventive 12 months per year.

Q: How does heartworm prevention work?

A: Heartworm preventive products all work by killing the same tissue stages (L3 and L4 stages) of the heartworm after your dog is bitten by an infected mosquito. Older heartworm life stages are not affected by the preventive products. Therefore, it is important to dose your dog with his prevention before the heartworms are able to mature to these older stages and to keep to a strict schedule of dosing every 30 days. Giving your dog his heartworm prevention on the same date each month will kill the tissue stages he may have accumulated since his last heartworm preventive dose.

Q: I have a new puppy. When should I start him on heartworm prevention?

A: It is important that you schedule a visit with your veterinarian so that he/she can perform a wellness exam and explain what preventive care your puppy needs. A puppy is not born with or given protection against heartworm disease by its mother. Your puppy is at risk for becoming infected with heartworms from the first day of life. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito to infect your puppy. Heartworm prevention should be started as early as 6-8 weeks of age. Talk to your veterinarian about which prevention is right for you and your puppy.

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