Pet owners take a lot of steps to keep their dogs healthy such as feeding them a well-balanced diet, ensuring they get enough exercise, and keeping potentially toxic foods or products out of reach. Another issue to keep in mind, especially when the weather is warm, is heartworms. These parasites can infect your dog’s heart and lungs and be potentially fatal. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce risk of heartworm disease.
What Causes Heartworm Disease?
First, it is important to understand what causes heartworm disease. This condition is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Dogs cannot catch it from being around other dogs who are infected. The mosquito leaves behind parasitic larvae that mature into adult worms. The worms can grow to be an average of 9 inches to 12 inches long and cause damage to the heart, lungs, muscles, and blood vessels.
Infected mosquitos are more common in warmer climates such as the southern half of the United States, but cases have been reported across all 50 states. It is better to be cautious and take steps to prevent heartworms than to potentially risk your pet’s health.
What are signs of Heartworm Disease?
Some dogs do not exhibit any symptoms until the condition has become more severe.
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian to be tested. Blood work and x-rays can detect the presence of infection and heartworms. The vet can develop a treatment plan based on how far the disease has progressed.
1. Use a Preventive Medication
This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent heartworms. There are a variety of medications available from injections to topical ointments to pills. Some are administered once a year, while others are given once a month or once every few months. Talk with your veterinarian about which form of heartworm prevention medication may be best for your dog. Make sure they are protected year-round.
2. Get Regular Checkups
Schedule annual checkups for your dog and let the veterinarian know about any changes you have noticed or concerns you may have. A thorough exam and regular blood work can help identify problems early on, including heartworm disease.
3. Reduce Exposure to Mosquitoes
There is no way to prevent your dog from ever coming into contact with mosquitoes, and not all mosquitoes are infected, but you can reduce their risk. Limit time spent outside when mosquito levels are high. They can be especially active around dawn and dusk, so plan walks accordingly.
Remove any standing water from around your home, and keep your dog away from puddles and swampy areas where mosquitoes tend to breed. Consider using pet-safe mosquito repellents to help keep insects at bay. Even having a fan gently blowing while outdoors can be enough to push mosquitoes out of your immediate area if you’re sitting and relaxing with your dog.
Protect your dog’s health by making sure they are on a heartworm prevention program. Knowing they are protected can give you greater peace of mind being outside and letting your dog run and play while at the park or boarding facility. While heartworm prevention medication is not required at Lake Wylie Pet Resort, we encourage pet owners to be proactive about their pet’s health. Schedule your dog’s next stay at Lake Wylie Pet Resort by contacting us today.