Spring is a wonderful season with blooming flowers and singing birds, but it also brings annoying mosquitoes, and not only do these pesky parasites feed on your dog’s blood; they can also deposit heartworm larvae in your pooch. Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic infection, and unfortunately all it takes is one infected mosquito to transmit the disease to your dog. With an infected mosquito’s bite, larvae enter the dog’s bloodstream and, once deposited, the larvae develops and travels in the body, eventually reaching the bloodstream, where they become lodged in the arteries of the lungs, and sometimes the right ventricle of the heart, causing inflammation, trauma to the tissue, and scarring. Dogs may not show any sign of infection for two to three years, and by then the heart and pulmonary vessels may already be clogged with hundreds of spaghetti shaped worms, and the longer undetected, the more deadly the disease becomes. Left untreated, heartworm infection can cause congestive heart failure, resulting in death. That’s why prevention is so important!

A dog does not get heartworms by coming in contact with an infected dog or picking up the worms from the environment – the ONLY way your dog can get heartworms is from a mosquito bite. It does not matter if your dog is the outdoor type or a pampered indoor Pomeranian…all dogs are at risk of getting heartworms, and obviously there is no way to guarantee that your dog will not be bitten by mosquitoes, but prevention of heartworm disease is simple. Diagnosis can be a simple blood test performed at your vet’s clinic, and if the test confirms no heartworm, your pet’s doctor can best determine what prevention plan is best for your individual dog, and it may seem expensive, but all agree it’s a small price to pay to keep your canine companion safe from this potentially deadly disease. (Please do NOT buy over the internet or purchase over- the- counter products. Some are ineffective, and some are toxic!) If your dog tests positive to heartworm, treatment is available, but is expensive and risky….it is far wiser and much easier to prevent the disease.

For heartworm preventatives to work, they must be given ON TIME, EVERY TIME. According to the American Heartworm Society, “Many caregivers are not consistent with the treatment. They must medicate their canine companions properly, and on time, every time. Many don’t admit to missing doses until we find the dog positive for heartworm. Prevention is simple; being consistent is not so easy. The AHS suggests these ideas to make sure you remember your dog’s all important preventive;

*Buy a pill organizer, and label the days as months, so you’ll know whether you gave that month’s dose.

*Put a reminder on your phone or your e-mail calendar

*Place the medicine in a safe place, but somewhere you’ll see it regularly.

If you have your dog tested annually, and you consistently give him a preventative, you have no worries. When you stop and consider how important your dog’s health is, you won’t want to take the chance of endangering him.