How to Prevent Heartworm Disease in Puppies
Most domestic pets, including dogs, will experience at least one parasite infection during their lifetime. Unfortunately, dogs are a natural host for one particularly debilitating, and often deadly, parasite, known as the heartworm. Contrary to popular belief, heartworms can be found in all 50 U.S. states, meaning that proper preventative treatment is essential if your pup is to avoid them entirely.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms live inside your dog’s body, surviving by ingesting her blood and consequently depriving her of the nutrients that she needs to remain healthy. Immature heartworms are spread by infected mosquitos, which transfer them into your pet’s bloodstream where they migrate to her heart and lungs. Once in these locations, they have an endless source of food that they can use to help them grow and mature. Eventually they will reproduce, and their increasing numbers will cause damage to organ function and in serious cases, completely block the flow of oxygenated blood through your pup’s body and put her life at risk.
Symptoms of heartworm disease
One of the biggest problems with heartworm disease is that it can be particularly difficult to spot, and you may have no idea that your puppy is affected until the infestation has progressed to a greater severity. Heartworms can live inside your pet for as many as five years, and symptoms will worsen over time. These could include:
- A soft, dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Unwillingness to be physically active
- Cough worsening after physical exertion
- Weight loss
- Coughing up blood
If left untreated, heartworm infections are often deadly, particularly in young animals like puppies.
Fortunately, there are a wide range of different solutions available which can prevent your beloved puppy from ever contracting heartworms. It is actually much easier and less expensive to prevent diseases like heartworm than to cure them. You can also protect your pet from the debilitating symptoms associated with the disease.
Puppies can begin heartworm preventative medication from as young as 6/8 weeks old. If your pup is a little older (age 6 months plus) it is important that she is given a heartworm test before preventative medication is given. This is because there is still a small chance that your puppy may be infected, and treatment will be required before preventative medication can be supplied.
There are a range of different types of heartworm preventatives available, both over the counter and directly from our veterinarian. Be careful when choosing one to use as some come in doses designed for specific weights of animal. Giving your pet too high of a dose could cause her to become unwell or worse. Equally, not giving her enough of the preventative for her height and weight could render the preventative ineffective and leave your pet unprotected.
Testing your dog for heartworms on an annual basis is still recommended. As previously mentioned, it is not always easy to determine if your pet is affected by heartworms, and annual testing will ensure that the preventative medication has not failed and enabled your dog to become infected.
For further information on heartworm prevention in puppies, contact us and speak to our veterinarian who will be happy to assist you in ensuring that your furbaby is adequately protected from this devastating parasitic infection.