It’s Heartworm Season!

Heartworm is a serious condition caused by worms that live in the heart and blood vessels of infected animals (mainly dogs). The parasite is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The worms can grow to a length of 15 – 30 cm and produce thousands of larva that can be picked up by mosquitoes and carried to other dogs. The presence of worms in the dog can cause damage to the heart, lungs and liver.

The OntarioVeterinaryCollege’s Department of Pathobiology periodically studies the incidence of heartworm disease in Canada. The most recent study in 2010 showed a 60% increase in the number of infected dogs in Ontario compared to the previous study in 2002. 75% of the positive cases in Canada were located in Ontario. 80% of the infected dogs had not been on heartworm preventive medication and in those that had been on preventive medication most owners indicated that they had not given the medication at the recommended intervals.

Heartworm disease if easily prevented through regular testing and preventive medications given monthly from June to November. Testing is particularly important as diagnosing heartworm infection early gives the best opportunity to treat the dog before serious heart damage has occurred. As we occasionally see dogs on preventive medication become infected (i.e. if doses are missed or not absorbed properly by the dog) testing is important even for dogs on preventive medication.

Treatment of dogs infected with heartworm is possible but is expensive and not without risk as there can be significant damage to the lungs as the worms die.

Overall, preventing heartworm infection is the safer and more effective course of action and there are several effective heartworm preventive medications available.  Call us today to discuss your dog’s unique situation!  (905) 727-3003

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