Is your dog at risk for heartworm disease? Dog heartworm risks are definitely higher in warm weather areas where there are canals and lakes such as in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. This is because mosquitoes carry can carry heartworm disease and mosquitoes are typically more prevalent during hot, wet weather.
If you live in a colder weather state, your dog is not free from the risks of heartworm disease as the months of June, July, and August can bring out mosquitoes in droves. This is especially true for states with many lakes such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Why Mosquitoes Are Risks For Dog Heartworm
Mosquitoes by themselves do not cause dog heartworms unless they feed from a heartworm infected animal.
This is because when they draw blood from an heartworm infected animal, they also draw tiny, microscopic creatures named microfilariae. These microfilariae migrate from the insect’s digestive tract to its abdominal region where they are transformed and, within, two to three days, reach an infective stage. At this point, the microfilariae are actually tiny adult heartworms.
Next, the microfilariae break into the mosquito’s body cavity and then migrate to its mouthparts. When it next bites a dog, these infected larvae are deposited on the dog’s skin. They burrow into the dog and lodge in its tissue where they can remain for several months.
Heartworm Enter The Blood Stream
At some point, the infected microfilariae (larvae) leave the tissue and enter the dog’s blood stream when they eventually lodge in the chambers of the right side of the dog’s heart where they develop into adult heartworms. This entire process usually takes about nine months.
Dog Heartworm - The Invisible Killer
The biggest problem – or risk – with heartworms is that your dog can be infected and you not know it. This is because the time between initial infection, when the mosquito bites the dog and when the heartworms mature can be six to seven months. This period is called the “prepatent period”. In other words, your dog can be infected and its heart can become infested with heartworms without you even knowing it. This is why heartworm disease is often called “the invisible killer”.
Preventing Heartworm In Dogs
Following If you believe your dog is at risk for heartworms, you should follow the old bromide, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” This means talking to your vet about a program to prevent your dog from contacting heartworm disease.
There are many preventative medicines available. They all require a prescription from your vet but then can be purchased online. Some of the most popular of these heartworm prevention medications are:
HeartGuard Plus – this is the brand name of the drug, ivermectin/pyrantel. It protects dogs by eliminating the tissue stage of the heartworm larvae. HeartGuard Plus is a chewable tablet that you give to your dog every 30 days. It is available in a six-month supply at various prices depending on the size of your dog.
Tri-Heart Plus - Like HeartGuard Plus, this medication will control roundworm and hookworm infections as well as protect the dog from heartworms. It is also a flavored, chewable tablet and contains the same ivermectin as Heartguard Plus. Tri-Heart Plus is available in three dosage strengths for small, medium and large dogs and generally costs a bit less than HeartGuard Plus. It should be given to your dog every thirty days.
Interceptor Heartworm Flavor Tabs – This popular heartworm preventative has, as it’s active ingredient, Milbemycin Oxime, to prevent heartworms and help control roundworm, whipworm and many hookworm infections as well. Interceptor Flavor Tabs are given directly into your dog’s mouth or you can put it into its food. One Interceptor tab needs to be given to the dog once a month at regular intervals.
Sentinel Flavor Tabs – This drug controls fleas as well as preventing heartworms. It also kills the adult stage of hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Sentinel’s active ingredient is milbemycin oxime, the same as Interceptor Flavor Tabs. It eliminates the tissue stage of heartworm larvae infestations and prevents most flea eggs from hatching or maturing into adults. However, it will not kill adult fleas. Your dog should be given Sentinel Flavor Tabs every 30 days.
Iverhart Plus - this medication is the generic equivalent of Heartguard Plus. This means it has the same active ingredients at the same strength. It is manufactured by Virbac and is considered to be the #1 generic heartworm preventative recommended by veterinarians. Because it is a generic version of HeartGuard Plus, it costs less than its counterpart.
Iverheart Max – Iverheart Max is similar to the Plus version of Iverheart but also treats and controls tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms. For this reason, it is somewhat more expensive than Iverheart Plus. It also is to be given to your dog every thirty days.
There are definitely risks for dog heartworms. But thanks to today’s veterinary medicine and the many preventative medications available, you can take steps to make sure your dog does not succumb to this disease.
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