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Heartworm Awareness Month

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Although we’ll be the first ones to admit that heartworms aren’t the most pleasant thing to discuss, it’s important for dog owners to understand what they are and how to prevent infestations. An Oconomowoc, WI vet discusses heartworms in this article.

Basics

As the name suggests, heartworms are parasites that take up residence in dogs’ hearts. They also invade Fido’s lungs and arteries. Heartworm infestations are extremely dangerous. Left untreated, they can even be fatal. (Note: cats can get heartworms too, though infestations are more common in dogs.)

Transmission

Heartworms aren’t spread from dog to dog. Instead, mosquitos transmit the worms in larval stage from pooch to pooch. Since mosquitos are, well, pretty much everywhere, Fido can contract worms anyplace, even inside your home.

Symptoms

You won’t notice any signs of heartworms at first, since the worms are basically microscopic at the time of transmission. However, as they grow, they will begin to interfere with your pet’s respiration and circulation. Coughing is often one of the earliest signs of heartworm. Your dog may also seem a bit lethargic, and may lose his breath easily. As the worms grow, you may start seeing more serious symptoms, such as fainting, dizziness, and even coma.

Treatment

Although there are treatment options for heartworms, it’s much better to prevent infestations than it is to try to eradicate them. For one thing, treatment can be quite expensive. In severe cases, surgery may be required. This is significantly more expensive than prevention. Dogs may also need to be kenneled during treatment. It’s also worth noting that the medicines that kill heartworms can be pretty harsh on our canine friends. Needless to say, heartworm treatments aren’t much fun for Fido.

Prevention

Now for the good news! It’s actually very easy to protect your beloved pet from these deadly—and disgusting—worms. Just be sure to administer your furry buddy’s heartworm prevention medication, and you won’t have to worry about it! Just keep in mind that if Fido is behind on his parasite control, your vet will need to run tests before starting him on a new regimen. This is because the medicine that prevents infestations does not kill live worms. Ask your vet for more information.

Is your dog overdue for an exam or parasite control products? Please feel free to contact us, your Oconomowoc, WI vet clinic, today!

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