What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Heartworm Disease

As a pet parent you want to protect your pooch (and kitty) from all the scary diseases that are out there. Pets residing in Upstate New York, the Capital District, Albany and Saratoga need to be safeguarded against tick-borne and mosquito-transmitted illnesses, even after the cold weather arrives.

How much do you know about Heartworm — a serious disease that, if untreated, can lead to death? It is transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes and found in 50 US states, according to information found online at PetHealthNetwork.com <http://pethealthnetwork.com/>.

Heartworm primarily affects the heart and lungs and can also affect the liver, kidney, eye and central nervous system.

What are the symptoms of heartworm? Potentially subtle, at the onset the symptoms can be easy to overlook.

“As the number of heartworms increases, the symptoms of coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, lack of appetite and weight loss become more apparent,” according to Dr. Ruth McPete, a veterinarian and contributing writer for Pet Health Network. “However it is best not to wait until symptoms develop since irreversible damage may have already occurred by then.”

In her 2015 Pet Health Network article titled What You Need To Know About heartworm Diseasefound at http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/what-you-need-know-about-heartworm McPete shared some findings from studies conducted by the American Heartworm Society (AHS).

“…heartworm infections are increasing across the United States. While most people know that heartworm disease affects dogs, many are unaware that it can also affect cats.,” McPete writes. “It was once believed that cats were resistant to heartworm infections but recent studies have shown this is not the case. Cats, just like dogs, can get heartworm disease. The fact is any animal can be bitten by a mosquito and therefore become infected with the parasite. Speak with your veterinarian about your particular pet’s risks and how to protect them.”

Diagnosing Heartworm Disease is quick and easy and most often done with a blood test by your veterinarian. If test findings and your pet’s symptoms indicate the need for further examination additional laboratory tests, X-Rays and a cardiac ultrasound may also be recommended to determine infection and severity, she said.

While the goal is always prevention, treatment of heartworms is aimed at killing the heartworms without injuring your pet, which in the past was a precarious balance to achieve.

“Fortunately, the treatment options have improved but they still have potential risks. Infected animals usually receive a series of intramuscular injections, hospitalization and then strict confinement to limit exercise for weeks. The fact is, treatment is expensive, time consuming and not without risks,” writes McPete, further emphasizing the importance of preventing the disease in the first place.

Safe and effective heartworm preventative medications come in many forms, including oral, topical and injection. These can also protect your pets (and their human family!) from other internal parasites, McPete said.

“This is important because it helps prevent the spread of parasites. So not only are you getting heartworm protection for your pet but also peace of mind that your pet has not picked up parasites like roundworms that can be transmitted to other pets and even humans,” she writes. “Finally, before starting preventative medications on pets over 6 months of age, have your veterinarian test them for heartworm infection because serious complications can develop if an infected animal is started on certain preventatives.”

For more information contact your pet’s veterinarian.

If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s behavior remember to reach out to your local Albany, NY and Saratoga, NY Offleash K9 Training professional. He or she can address behavioral issues such as canine obedience, canine food aggression, dog aggression, potty training and much more!