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Posts Tagged ‘American Heartworm Society’

It Pays to Test:
Why your Dog Needs an Annual Heartworm Check-up

Spring, summer, winter or fall — your pets need year-round prevention to keep them free of deadly heartworms and other parasites. While an annual heartworm check-up at Little Creek Veterinary Clinic is one of the best moves you can make as a responsible pet owner, it’s helpful to understand why heartworm testing and examinations are important.

My dog was just tested for heartworm a year ago. Why does he need a test again so soon?

Your dog should have a heartworm test once a year to determine if he became infected with heartworms during the previous season. It takes months before a dog with heartworm will test positive on a heartworm test, so testing annually — usually at the time the prescription for his heartworm medication is being renewed — makes sense. As with many diseases, the earlier heartworm can be diagnosed, the better the chances he will recover. If heartworm disease in a dog goes undetected and untreated, the worms can cause progressive and potentially fatal damage to his arteries, heart and lungs.

If my dog is on continuous heartworm prevention, why does he need to be tested?

That’s a logical question if you’re a responsible owner who keeps your dog on heartworm prevention year-round. The reason for annual testing of dogs in this case is to ensure his prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected.

Why? A common reason is simple forgetfulness. Missing just one dose of a monthly medication — or giving it late — can leave a dog unprotected. Even if you do everything right and on time, it’s no guarantee. Some dogs spit out their heartworm pills when their owners aren’t looking. Others may vomit their pills or rub off a topical heartworm medication. Whatever the cause of missing or delaying a dose, any of these mishaps can put your dog at risk of heartworm infection.

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What else do I need to know about heartworms, testing, and prevention?

  1. Heartworm disease is easier to prevent than to treat. Prevention is a simple, once-a-month chewable treat or topical application plus an annual blood test. Treatment includes blood tests and Xrays or ultrasound; a course of antibiotics; a series of painful medication injections deep into the pet’s muscles near the spine; and strict confinement for a month. Treatment can pose its own set of health risks. And treating heartworm disease can cost more than 15 times the amount of a year’s worth of prevention. 
  2. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. There are 22 different mosquito species in the U.S. that carry heartworm, and they are active at different times of the day and year.
  3. A heartworm test requires just a few drops of blood, and you will receive the results of your dog’s test during the vet visit.
  4. If your pet develops heartworm disease while taking its preventative medication, the medication’s manufacturer may want to see proof of annual testing before they pay for your pet’s treatment.

Remember, the best offense against heartworm disease is a good defense.
Follow American Heartworm Society recommendations and Think 12 — give heartworm preventatives 12 months a year and test your dog every 12 months.

This article adapted from “It Pays to Test: Why Your Dog Needs an Annual Heartworm Check-up” by the American Heartworm Society.

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Take a look at this chart showing reported cases of heartworm disease across the U.S. in 2013. Our area of Virginia saw between 51-100 cases per clinic of the clinics surveyed for this map. That’s a lotta heartworms! [Chart produced by the American Heartworm Society.]

Heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquitoes, can be fatal. Post-exposure treatment is available for dogs, but not for cats.

Large map

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The good news is, heartworm disease is preventable, in dogs and cats.

Contact Us today to find out how we can protect your pet.

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