What is Heartworm?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm inhabiting the heart, lungs and other major blood vessels. These organs are then damaged by the worms, and if left untreated, can be fatal to the dog. Heartworms are spread by infected mosquitoes.
Dogs who have been infected may show symptoms such as coughing, faiting, weight loss, and exercise intolerance. When the infection is far along, dogs experience heart failure, blockage of arteries, and caval syndrome.
How do you Prevent it?
There are multiple types of prevention that can be prescribed by your vet, including a monthly oral preventative, a monthly topical preventative, and a long-acting injection given every six months.
It is extremely important to administer such preventatives when recommended by your veterinarian, as they will only affect the worms during a specific part of their life cycle.
How do you Treat it?
If your dog tests positive for heartworms, it is important to get him/her treated right away. The American Heartworm Society put together a treatment for heartworms that includes starting your animal on prevention, then completing a course of doxycycline (an antibiotic), then finishing with injections of melarsomine. Melarsomine is an agent that will kill the adult worms.