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April is National Heartworm Awareness Month
We will be offering our heartworm clinic special with a 15% discount on the blood test and heartworm preventative
from April 1 through April 28.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease that we see in our practice area at Gunbarrel Veterinary Hospital. It is caused by a parasite that is spread from dog to dog (or coyote) by mosquitoes. While not common, cats may also be infected. The adult worms live right in the heart. They can kill your dog slowly, by causing heart failure, or they can kill a dog suddenly if the worms plug up an important blood vessel. The chances of your dog getting heartworms depends upon the number of mosquitoes in your area, and the proximity of another dog, fox, or coyote that has heartworms. Fortunately, there are preventative medications available.
The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox or coyote produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats.
We recommend annual testing (a blood test) for heartworm even if your dog is taking a preventative. The reason for this is that there seems to be some resistance to preventatives developing in some areas of the US. And you know, sometimes we forget to give the preventative on time or we aren't sure if our dog actually swallowed all the preventative. We support the recommendation of the American Heartworm Society that you give your pet
heartworm preventative 12 months a year.
Puppies as young as 8 weeks old should be started on preventative. A puppy will not need a blood test, because currently our tests cannot detect the early larval stages of heartworm. Once a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm, it takes at least 6 months for us to be able to detect the infection.
Please get your pets tested today!
Call us at Gunbarrel Veterinary Hospital if you have questions on heartworm disease or for more information on our
April heartworm special.