Mont Albert Vet recommends that all dogs living in our region of Melbourne be on a heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm is present throughout most of mainland Australia.
Heartworm is spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Even dogs that stay at home and don't meet other dogs are at risk.
Once a dog is infected with heartworm, treatment is possible but can be expensive and risky. Preventing infection is the best strategy.
What is heartworm?
Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic roundworm spread by mosquitoes. It has a complicated life cycle.
Infected dogs have microfilaria, an immature form of heartworm, circulating in their bloodstream. These microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when they feed on the blood of an infected dog.
Inside the mosquitoes, the microfilaria develop into heartworm larvae. A single bite from a carrier mosquito can then infect your dog.
Once your dog is infected, the immature heartworms migrate over weeks or months to your dog's chest and eventually travel through the bloodstream to the heart. As the worms mature in your dog's heart they can cause a physical blockage as well as thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels.
In the early stages of infection there may be no visible signs in your dog. However, infection may eventually lead to signs of heart failure (such as reluctance to exercise, lethargy, coughing) and even death.
How do I prevent my dog being infected with heartworm?
Heartworm is very easy to prevent and preventive medications should form part of your pet health care routine.
Preventive treatment is as simple as an annual injection (Proheart SR12) which can be done at the same time as your dog's yearly health check and vaccination booster. Other options for heartworm prevention include monthly tablets or chewables (such as Comfortis Plus) or a medication applied to the back of your dog's neck (such as Advocate).
If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we may recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, followed by a repeat test 6 months after commencing.
Some heartworm prevention products can be dangerous if given to a dog that is already infected.
Please call us at Mont Albert Vet on 9890 1728 to discuss the best heartworm prevention for your pet.