Published 09/01/2020

3 Tips for Preventing Heartworm Disease in Your Dog

Did you know that heartworm disease is now a concern all across the United States? According to the American Heartworm Society, cases of heartworm—which is caused by the dirofilaria immitis—have been reported in all 50 states.

That means even if you live in a relatively dry and low-mosquito environment, your pet is still at risk of falling victim to heartworm disease. It takes only one infected mosquito to start spreading the disease.

This disease begins moving through your dog’s bloodstream when it’s bitten by a mosquito that’s carrying larvae. Within 45 to 65 days, the larvae migrate through the muscles to the bloodstream, ending in the large blood vessels, leading from the heart to the lungs.

The symptoms of infection usually don’t appear until the larvae have matured—about six months to a year later.

One quick bite from a pesky, disease-carrying mosquito is all it takes to infect your dog. Once the disease takes over, it can be challenging to treat.

The good news is that heartworm disease is preventable. By taking a few simple precautions, you can easily keep your dog free of heartworm disease. Follow these three easy tips.

Reduce the number of mosquitoes

Keeping your home and your pets’ surroundings mosquito-free can be a challenge. It’s possible to reduce mosquito populations around your home, but it’s nearly impossible to eliminate them altogether. Mosquitos are hardy pests. Take these steps to minimize creating a habitat that mosquitos thrive in:

  • Use screens in doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Eliminate standing water indoors and outdoors to reduce the opportunities for mosquitoes to procreate. Mosquitoes require water to flourish.
  • Use bug spray to keep mosquito bites at bay. The more they bite, the more they thrive.
  • Keep your home cool and dry. Hot and humid environments offer hospitable lodging where mosquitoes are likely to get comfortable, stay awhile and begin to breed.

Use a preventive

Dogs can’t hide from heartworm disease, and it takes only one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit it.

Preventives can safeguard your dog from heartworm disease altogether. How? Preventives affect heartworm larvae before they ever have a chance to grow into adults and cause real harm to the host.

Most preventative products are administered monthly, making it easy to manage your dog’s health regimen. The most effective require a prescription from your veterinarian.

Regular testing

Before getting your dog on a heartworm prevention regimen, it’s important to make sure it is heartworm-free to begin with.

Your dog should be tested at least once a year (unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian). Testing is a simple and quick process that requires a small blood sample, which can be done at the time of your dog’s annual wellness visit.

By taking the time to invest in heartworm preventive care, you can have peace of mind that your dog will have a greater chance of enjoying a healthy life, free of heartworm disease. Talk to your veterinarian about the best options for you and your pup.

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