Thursday, October 28th, 2021

P Shopper Columns


Heartworm prevention is one of the most crucial parts of a dog's healthcare. Despite this, many people don't realize the seriousness of this potentially fatal disease. Understanding what the disease does and where it comes from can help pet owners make the best decision to protect their pets. So what are heartworms? Heartworms are parasites that live in a dog's heart and lungs. They are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The baby heartworms, or microfilaria, are injected into the bloodstream by the mosquito. The microfilaria make their way into the heart, where they grow into adult worms which can reach up to 12 inches in length. These parasites cause severe damage to the dog's heart and lungs, resulting in lung disease, heart failure, and impacting organs in the body. Dogs infected with heartworms may show symptoms such as coughing, lethargy, weight loss, and trouble breathing, but usually not until well into the progression of the disease.

It's a common misconception
that dogs won't get
heartworms in the winter,
or if they are always indoors.

It's a common misconception that dogs won't get heartworms in the winter, or if they are always indoors. Mosquitoes find their way indoors and are still around even in the winter. All it takes for a dog to become infected is a single bite. Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection. Heartworm preventions are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. Missing just one dose of a monthly medication- or giving it late- can leave your dog unprotected. Your veterinarian is the best resource for learning more about any health risk your dog might face, as well as how to protect them. Note that heartworms can also affect felines, though there is currently no treatment for heartworms in cats. Heartworm prevention is their only form of protection against these parasites.

Heartworm prevention is far cheaper than treatment of the disease, and it prevents the suffering that procedure entails, which includes injections deep in the dog's muscle. The dog must then be confined with restricted activity because, as the worms die, they could cause clots in the bloodstream- which can also be fatal. Our companions deserve to live long, healthy lives. Making informed, compassionate decisions can lead to the most effective use of our resources- such as preventing a disease rather than curing it. Providing quality care in keeping our pets healthy and happy is the responsibility of every pet owner for those animals which brighten our hearts and homes every day.

Breonna Loxley is an animal care technician at an animal shelter. She is an avid artist, writer, and animal-lover. She lives with her parents, a younger brother, two cats, and one dog.