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Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by mosquitos. Coyotes, foxes and other canine wildlife provide a constant supply of heartworm for infection to our pet dogs. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, that mosquito can pass the heartworm on to your dog resulting in serious heart and lung disease. We still see several cases of heartworm disease every year in dogs that have not been on consistent preventative medication. At our hospital, testing for heartworm also includes testing for diseases transmitted by ticks, Lyme disease being the most common.

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If a dog has heartworms, what symptoms should I look for?

Many dogs with heartworm disease won’t show signs and symptoms of the disease until it is has progressed into the later stages of the disease. You may see shortness of breath, decreased energy or a cough. Early testing & treatment will help prevent your dog from developing the serious consequences of this disease.

What are the treatment options for heartworms?

Heartworm disease is much easier to prevent than treat. Only one drug is available to treat adult heartworms and a special request has to be placed through the Veterinary Drugs Directorate to obtain it. The process for the entire treatment is long, taking up to 9 months to be able to say a dog is free of heartworm.

Why is recovery for heartworm treatment so challenging?

As the young and adult heartworms are dying, they can cause a great strain on the body. We can see anaphylactic reactions to dying baby heartworm. This is why it is so important to make sure your dog has tested negative for heartworm before starting on heartworm prevention. As the adult worms are dying, they can cause blood clots that can lodge in the cardiopulmonary system which could lead to severe breathing problems or death. It is extremely important that dogs undergoing heartworm treatment have restricted exercise and follow all medication instructions properly in order to minimize the potential of this happening.

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