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Heartworm disease is a deadly, but preventable disease. We carry a variety of products to help you protect your pet and we will be happy to discuss options with you. We believe that every dog should be on heartworm prevention all year long. Many people believe that their indoor pet does not need to be on heartworm prevention. This is a false assumption. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and all it takes is one bite to transfer the disease to your pet. In fact, mosquitoes play a critical role in the development of an adult heartworm. An unprotected dog in the neighborhood can serve as a reservoir for heartworms for many years. Also, coyotes and foxes can become infected and serve as a source of the disease. Unprotected dogs are at risk in the U.S. in every state. Obviously dogs that spend the majority of their time outdoors are at a greater risk, but mosquitoes can infect a dog while it goes outside to the bathroom or enter the house and infect the pet while it naps on the couch.
The process of an unprotected dog becoming infected with heartworms starts by a mosquito biting an infected dog, coyote, or fox. The mosquito ingests microfilariae (a young heartworm) while it feeds and becomes the host to it for the next ten to fourteen days. Over this time period, the microfilariae mature into infective larvae. The infective larvae enter their next host through the fresh wound that is left after the mosquito's next meal. Over a six to seven month period, the infective larvae make their way to the pet's heart and vessels of the lung. In these locations, they mature, can grow up to a foot long, and begin producing microfilariae of their own! Heartworms may live for five to seven years, leading to a large buildup in an animal that has seen a few mosquito seasons and making that animal a reservoir to start the process all over again in another dog, coyote, or fox.
Testing & Prevention
Preventing heartworm disease is cheaper for the owner and less stressful on the pet than treating it is. In order to start your pet on heartworm prevention, we would need to test them first to make sure that they are not currently infected (except very young dogs). Placing an untested dog on heartworm prevention is dangerous and potentially fatal. Here at Buck Creek Veterinary Clinic, we use what is known as a "Snap" test to check your pet. The test takes approximately ten minutes and uses a small blood sample from your pet. The sample is then measured out and combined with a conjugate specifically designed for the test. This combination is then transferred to the test. After the sample reaches a certain point on the test, the assistant then snaps the test to activate it, thus the name "Snap" test. When the test is completed, it is examined for indicator dots. These dots appear in specific locations and correlate with either Negative or Positive results for Heartworm. We hope that each test turns out Negative, but in the case of a Positive result, the doctor will discuss the result with you and establish a treatment plan.
If your pet is Negative for Heartworms, we will start them or renew their prescription for heartworm prevention. We carry oral, topical, and six month injectable versions of prevention to make it as easy as possible to protect your pet. Many of these products contain a combination of medications to do other things besides heartworm prevention.