Answer: Heartworm disease is precisely as it sounds, the dog’s heart fills/clogs with a specific type of worm in the bloodstream, making it difficult for the heart to pump. This is a different worm than the more common intestinal worm that many dogs get. Your dog can get this worm from a mosquito bite. The mosquito transmits eggs that mature into worms inside the heart.
As I stated, these worms interfere with blood flow and can be fatal. Every year sadly we see cases here in Springboro. The treatment is tough on the dog and very expensive. As a matter of fact, the procedure can be risky but not treating can be deadly.
The better approach is prevention. A popular method of prevention is a monthly chewable pill that is given year-round. Another type of prevention is an injection that lasts 6 months and better for those with a busy lifestyle. We love the six-month option and use it for our personal pets. In either case, when infected mosquitos bite, the eggs are killed before developing into an adult worm. With all Heartworm preventative medications, you need to get a simple in-office blood test before starting.
And for all my cat loving clients, YES CATS CAN GET HEARTWORM too, but it is a very different disease in cats. Heartworm in cats manifests itself as more of a respiratory condition, so we become suspicious when we see your cat with breathing problems.
Heartworm is serious, very serious and it is on the rise in our area. When I first started practice, we might have one case every other year, now the average in our area is 25 cases per clinic a year. That is a lot! It is preventable, please see your veterinarian for preventives. And be wary of online medications, as mentioned in earlier Ask the Vet articles, there are several bootleggers out there selling fake heartworm medication. The scary part is you cannot tell the fake packaging from the real packing. Buyer BEWARE!