Debugging De Dog, Part I – Heartworms

It’s that time of the year again when we start thinking about all the bugs our babies can pick up. In this series, I’ll discuss all the various kinds that can pester your pet. Some are just a nuisance and some can be deadly. I’ll explain each one what it is, where they come from, how to protect your baby, and how to treat if it’s too late to prevent. Part I is heartworms one of the most deadly of all the pests that may threaten your dog.

Heartworms:

Heartworms can be deadly! Any dog can get heartworms, even posh little Chihuahuas. But, the good news is that they are also 100% preventable.

Sadly, many dogs die from heartworms without showing any signs. Wow! That’s scary. But, don’t worry, as long as you do your part to prevent them your precious pooch will never have to worry about them.

What causes heartworms?

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites. As the worms mature (about 6 months) they travel to the lungs and then to the heart. They get so big that it takes only two to kill a Chihuahua! But, I didn’t write this to scare the pants off you. As I said it is preventable!

What if I didn’t get my dog as a puppy?

Depending on where you got your dog most have been and are being treated already. Of course, you would want to be extra cautious if you suspect that your dog came from a puppy mill. A blood sample must be tested to make sure the dog is not already infected. This simple test can be done at your veterinarian’s office while you wait. A heartworm test isn’t necessary for a puppy under three months of age.

How often should they be treated?

Since heartworms are caused by mosquito bites, it depends on where you live. In northern areas, where temperatures reach freezing, dogs need to take a heartworm preventive only during the spring, summer, and fall. In the southern United States, because mosquitoes are present year-round, dogs need to take a heartworm preventive year-round

Dogs on heartworm preventive should still be tested every year, just in case the medication was forgotten or was ineffective for some reason.

Treatment:

If you suspect that your dog may have heartworms, get them to a veterinarian immediately! Don’t wait. As mentioned above, it only takes two heartworms to kill a Chihuahua.

Available medications:

Several excellent products are available for preventing heartworm infection, most of them monthly chew tabs that are so tasty you can just drop them in your dog’s food bowl and he’ll gobble them up (my three absolutely love theirs). A heartworm preventive can be given to a puppy with his first set of vaccinations.

Watch for Part II of DeBugging De Dog

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