Unfortunately, certain strains of heartworms are able to resist current heartworm medications.
This appears to be true mostly — but not exclusively — in the south.
So, if you happen to live in the southern part of the United States, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the best options for you and your dog.
If you’re like me, even if you don’t live in the south, you will keep your dog on a heartworm prevention year round for the following reasons…
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs. —American Heartworm Society
A friend of mine is a veterinarian. These are photos of Nicole P. and her colleagues surgically removing heartworms from a dog:
Now see what heartworms look like on a slide under a microscope:
Often, dogs will show few, if any symptoms during the early stages of heartworm disease.
This alone, is the best reason to keep your dog on a heartworm preventative (year round). Otherwise, you might not even find out that your dog has heartworms — until it’s too late.
Think about it this way:
In addition to keeping your dog on a year-round heartworm preventative (which, as a bonus, also kills intestinal parasites year round), having your dog tested annually for heartworms is your best defense against the deadly, infected mosquitoes. It’s a simple blood test done in your veterinarian’s office. Puppies should get their very first heartworm test at 7 months of age.
The time from infection to microfilaria [finding baby worms in the blood] is about 7 months, so when your pet is tested this spring (and the AmericanHeartworm Society recommends testing all dogs yearly even if they are on preventatives) we are really looking for last year’s infections. —Keith Niesenbaum, DVM
If your dog shows any of the following signs, take your dog to the vet right away:
If your dog does have heartworms, the following things are going on without you even realizing it:
Veterinary tests and x-rays are the only way to confirm that your dog has heartworms.
The treatment for heartworm disease is expensive (for you) and grueling (for your dog). Basically, a form of arsenic is used to kill the heartworms inside your dog. It’s a long process, and your dog must be in otherwise good health just to be able to withstand the treatment.
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