dvm (78)“My dog doesn’t have heartworms. He’s not sick. He can’t have heartworms.” This is a very common misconception by pet owners heard daily by veterinarians. The fact is; most dogs infected with heartworms have absolutely no symptoms for several years until they develop heart and lung damage from the heartworm infestation.

Heartworms are spread from infected dogs to other dogs by mosquitoes. The worms migrate to the right side of the heart and live there and in the large vessel going to the lungs. They cause an increased workload on the heart and inflammation that leads to scarring of the lungs. The first sign of disease may not appear for several years and usually begins as a mild cough. By that time, severe damage has already been done.

Preventing heartworms is much easier on the dog and less expensive than treating the dog once it has the disease. A monthly chewable heartworm preventative will prevent the worms from getting into the heart and causing disease. All puppies should be started on the preventative before they are six months old. Older dogs need to have a quick, simple test by a veterinarian to make sure they do not already have heartworms before they can start the preventative. The preventatives are very safe and most also prevent infestations of intestinal worms as well.

There are many dogs that are infected with heartworms that are acting as a source of infection for other dogs. Giving the monthly preventative is essential to keep the infection from spreading to your dog. Because it is undetectable except for a test by a veterinarian and no outward signs are seen early in the disease, it is know as “the silent killer” of dogs. Get your dog tested and on preventative today.

Dr. Russell N. Ueckert has been providing veterinary care for animals in the Big Country for over 19 years. This article was produced in part with contributions from Veterinary News Network. For all of your veterinary needs look to www.bigcountryvets.com.