Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heartworm: A Serious Threat!

Heartworm is on the rise in the United States. Dogs and cats in all 50 states are at risk to contract this serious and potentially fatal disease. If an infected mosquito bites your furry friend, it passes along the disease, which causes parasitic worms to grown in the lungs and heart. An infected dog may not show signs of the disease until the disease is serious and harder to combat. Moreover, if untreated, the dog can die. Thankfully, treatment for infected dogs is available, but it's difficult for the dog and expensive.

A now for the good news: heartworm is preventable! It's much easier and less taxing on your furry friend (and your wallet) to use heartworm preventatives than to risk disaster. Today, the options are numerous: daily or monthly pills, monthly spot on treatments (liquid is placed on the dog's skin between the shoulder blades) or injections twice a year. As an added bonus, many of the preventives also fight intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and whipworms. Caution: Cats have their own heartworm preventatives; using canine medication on a cat can have deadly results!

Giving your dog heartworm medicine without a visit to the vet is dangerous! An infected dog can have a severe or fatal reaction to the preventative. Because it can take five to seven months for an infected dog to show signs of the disease, your dog must be tested for heartworm before he begins any preventative. Call your vet today to have your pooch tested and to determine which preventative is best for your pet. The test is quick and inexpensive and requires only a bit of blood. If you need finaincal assistance, contact local animal shelters as they may have programs to help.

Remembering to administer the preventative may be the hardest part of keeping your dog heartworm-free and healthy. As soon as you come home from the vet, mark your calendar to remind yourself when each preventative dose is due. Dogs should take heartworm preventatives all year regardless of where they live

To learn more, talk to your veterinarian and visit the American Heartworm Society's website.

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