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Nothing Heartwarming about Heartworm

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What Can I Do to Prevent Heartworm?

Luckily, there are several excellent heartworm preventatives available. Before starting preventative treatment in the dog though, a veterinarian will do a blood test to check for adult heartworms.  If a dog is given the preventative medicine but it already has the infection, there can be a reaction that may be severe, even possibly fatal. So it is mandatory that all dogs be checked for the disease before starting any preventative.   Also, several organizations, including the American Heartworm Society, recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworm, and remain on the preventative medicine year round. 

There are many brands of oral monthly preventatives, two types of topical monthly preventatives, and an injectable medication which is given every six months.   All these medications  are by prescription only.

If you have concerns, make an appointment to speak to your veterinarian about testing, prevention or treatment. Your veterinarian is a local expert at preventing and treating heartworm.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm is a long, string-like parasitic worm that has the scientific name Dirofilaria immitis. It earns its common name by living in the host’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworm can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death. It is transmitted only through mosquitoes to a variety of species including dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions, and in rare instances, humans. Heartworm can affect any breed of dog or cat.

Heartworm infects animals all over the world. Once inside an animal, a heartworm can live five to seven years, and grow up to twelve inches long. Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti.

Mosquitoes spread heartworm to the host animal.  When a mosquito bites the animal, it transmits infected larvae through the bite wound. Once inside an animal, it takes six or seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. These adult heartworms mate and the females release the offspring, called microfilariae, into the host animal’s bloodstream. Mosquitoes then ingest these microfilariae when they bite the infected animal, completing the lifecycle of heartworm.

The parasite lives  inside a mosquito, and develops into infective larvae in 10 to 14 days. Microfilariae cannot become infective larvae without first passing through a mosquito. This means heartworm is spread  only through mosquito bites and not by casual contact.

The presence of the parasites inside the heart and lungs causes a large degree of inflammation, and can severely interfere with blood flow. This can cause coughing, asthma -like signs, heart failure, weight loss, fluid build-up in the abdomen, or sudden death. If  your pet develops heartworm, your veterinarian will do tests including chest x-rays and blood tests  to determine how seriously it is affected.  Treatment includes doxycycline and an injectable drug named Immiticde ℞ which is derived from arsenic. The treatment takes several months, and can also cause side effects.

For all these reasons,  it is much better to just prevent heartworm in the first place. 

Sources:

American Heartworm Society

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Testimonials

  •           8/29/2017

    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

    Unfortunately, this year I’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. The compassion the staff showed to both my pet and I made these unbearable times tolerable. I am indebted to both Dr. Del Rosso and (the wonderful) Dr. Ravn for their kindness, compassion and dedication.

    If you are new to the area or just looking for a new vet, please give Balboa pet Hospital a call!

  •           6/5/2017

    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

  •           6/5/2017

    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

  •           4/28/2017

    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

  •           5 of 5

    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

  •           5 of 5

    I have been a patron of Balboa Pet Hospital for almost 500 years now (wink). I love Everybody there and feel they are have always been a great resource and the BEST support system for everything pertaining to my pets.

  •          

    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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