Heartworms are blood parasites. Adult heartworms can live in the large blood vessels of a dog that connect the heart and lungs. The parasites can cause blockages in blood flow and stimulate inflammatory reactions within the lining of the blood vessels. These serious health problems can then be transferred to other blood vessels throughout the body. The inflammation can have far-reaching, life threatening consequences.
- Shortness of breath, loss of stamina or a nagging dry cough
- Coughing up blood
- Lack of energy
- Loss of weight and appetite
How it is spread
Heartworms are blood parasites spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, much the same way malaria is spread. It is not a disease that humans contract, but dogs are at risk. The spread of the disease has been well contained inside Australia since it was first identified, but pockets of infection continue to emerge around the country.
Some factors can increase the risk of the spread of heartworm:
- High temperatures and humidity levels
- High rainfall
- Natural disasters like floods and storms
- New urban developments
- Increasing pet population
- Wild dogs and foxes
Although there is a treatment for heartworm, it can have very negative effects on your pet’s health. Prevention methods are much more effective and much less intrusive.
Prevention methods include:
- Daily tablet or liquid medication that you can feed your dog. It is the cheapest form of prevention, but is also the most prone to failure.
- Monthly medication comes in through tablet or top-spot preparation, most of which can help protect your pet against intestinal worms and fleas as well.
- Annual, convenient injections called Proheart®, a year-round, safe and effective heartworm preventative. We strongly recommend this method and will send you yearly reminders to make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are kept up to date.
The test for heartworm is a quick blood test that only takes a few minutes. Puppies do not need to be tested before receiving injections like Proheart®, which can be administered at 6 months of age.