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Posts Tagged ‘heartworm prevention’

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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Now that Thanksgiving is over, and you’ve finished eating

—  wait — 

you have finished eating, haven’t you?

Good.

We’re going to do some veterinary math.

The picture below illustrates a gaggle of Roundworms.

noodles 1

Roundworms. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic (VA).

How many worms make a gaggle?

Noodles 2

Roundworms. Photo by Little Creek Veterinary Clinic (VA).

In this case, seven.

If you feel sick after seeing these pictures,
imagine how your pet would feel if these worms were in its intestines.

The good news:
Roundworms are preventable with a monthly dose of
heartworm / intestinal worm medication,
like HeartGard Plus or Sentinel.

Contact Us to be sure your pet is protected.

 

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     Great news for HeartGard Plus users:  Merial has increased the 12-dose rebate to $12

     Now through the end of this year, when you purchase 2* six-packs (12 doses total) of HeartGard Plus, you will receive a $12 rebate check from Merial. 

     The best part?  You don’t have to fill out a form or mail anything in.  As always, we will complete and send the rebate form for you.

     *Offer valid only on matching HeartGard Plus sizes purchased on one receipt (i.e. small + small, medium + medium, or large + large.)

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Which heartworm preventative is right for your pet?

     If you’ve ever skipped giving your pet its heartworm medicine because you figure last month’s dose will carry over, you could be making a deadly mistake.

     Pet owners might assume that the heartworm preventative medication stays in the pet’s body all month long, providing constant protection against parasites.  But that’s not how the medications work.

How does it work?
     When you give your pet its dose of heartworm preventative each month, it immediately goes to work killing off heartworms that have infected the body in the prior 30 days.  The medication then leaves the body, often 24-48 hours after dosing.  Your pet is then left “unprotected” for 30 days until you give the next dose.

     It is important to remember to give the medication on time, because worms that are allowed to grow past a certain stage will not be killed by the medication; instead they will continue on to maturity.  Have a look at this example:

April 4………..your pet receives its monthly heartworm preventative dose, which is designed to kill heartworm larvae acquired since the previous dose in March.

April 7………your pet is bitten by a mosquito and is infected with heartworms.

May 4………your pet is due for its monthly dose, but you have forgotten to give it; the larval infection is now 27 days old and is still in the range to be removed by the medication.

May 17……the larval infection is now 40 days old, but you haven’t remembered the dose yet.

June 4…..the larval infection is 58 days old; many have become juvenile worms and will outlive the heartworm dose that you remember to give today.  In another few weeks, the juvenile worms will enter the heart and lungs where they will mature and reproduce.

What if I keep giving the medicine?
     Eventually, the mature heartworms will produce babies (we call them “microfilariae.”)  Here’s where it gets tricky:  the monthly heartworm medicine also kills the microfilariae.  That might sound like a good thing, and in a way, it is:  without circulating microfilariae in the blood, your dog will not pose an infection risk to other pets (cats generally don’t exhibit this stage, so they do not pose a risk to other animals.) 

     Unfortunately, the absence of this stage of disease also produces false negative test results.  Because there are different ways to test for “baby” heartworms versus adult heartworms, it is crucial that you tell your vet if your pet has missed any heartworm doses, especially in the last six months or more.  With this information, the vet can choose the proper test to determine whether your pet has the disease.

Which heartworm preventative do you recommend?
     Our clinic carries several types of preventatives, depending on the needs of your pet.

     For cats, we carry only one brand:  Revolution
     For dogs, we carry HeartGard Plus, Iverhart, and Sentinel

Can I buy heartworm preventative over the counter?
     No.  In Virginia, heartworm preventatives are considered prescription drugs.  Your pet must have an exam and blood test by a veterinarian before starting this medication.  If you find heartworm medications sold at stores or online without a prescription – steer clear!  These can be imported fake medications.  The manufacturers of the legitimate brands will not honor their guarantees if the medications are not purchased from a veterinarian.

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Questions?  Use the contact form on this blog or leave a note in the comment section.

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     If you’ve lived in Hampton Roads for very long, you know that mosquitoes are here to stay.  Unfortunately, these pests can carry deadly heartworm disease, which affects dogs and cats.

     As the name suggests, heartworms live in the heart, but they can also migrate to the lungs and brain.  While a dog can carry a burden of numerous heartworms before dying, a cat can have a deadly reaction to the presence of a single worm. 

     And treatment for heartworm disease is not as short and sweet as it is for intestinal worms.  Ongoing treatment for heartworm disease can last up to 6 months, requires total cage rest for the entire treatment period, and – perhaps scariest of all – involves the use of an arsenic-based drug.  If your pet’s vet has been harping on the issue of heartworm prevention, now you know why.

The Heartworm Life Cycle

  1. A mosquito bites a heartworm-infected dog and ingests tiny heartworm larvae along with the animal’s blood.  (Wolves, foxes, and coyotes can also carry the disease.)
  2. Inside the mosquito, these larvae develop into their infective stage.
  3. When the same mosquito bites another dog (or a cat), the larvae infect the healthy animal.
  4. Without a monthly dose of preventive, the larvae continue to develop inside the dog or cat, eventually reaching the heart and lungs.

Tomorrow:  Monthly Heartworm Preventative Medication – Explained
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Information for this article was borrowed from the Merial publication “Protector,” Summer 2010 issue.

 

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