What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart.
How do pets get heartworms?
Pets get heartworms from the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito bites the unsuspecting pet and deposits the larvae into the animal. The larvae migrates to the heart where it matures. The adult heartworms then reproduce and their offspring (microfilaria) will be ingested the next time a mosquito feeds on the pet, starting the cycle all over again.
Is my pet really at risk?
Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. All pets are at risk, regardless of their lifestyle; both indoor and outdoor pets can get heartworm disease.
According to the latest American Heartworm Society survey the incidence of heartworms has been increasing. Between 2013 and 2016 the number of infected dogs per clinic increased by 21 percent in the U.S. and its territories. Illinois veterinary clinics (in 2016) reported at least 6-25 cases per clinic, with even higher numbers in Southern Illinois (51-99 cases per clinic).
Do heartworms cause damage to my pet?
The adult worm lives inside the heart and can cause damage to the blood vessels and valves. Unfortunately there is no test to determine how many heartworms your pet may have. In order to determine the extent of the damage radiographs ( also called x-rays) of your pet's chest can be performed to see if the heart and the blood vessels to the lungs are enlarged. We also recommend full blood work to see what damage or pathology may be present in the other organs within the body.
My pet has been on heartworm preventative but still came up positive on the test. Now what?
The companies that manufacture these products offer various guarantees for certain diagnostics, treatments, and future prevention. Please contact our office for more information.
Treatment for heartworm disease
We treat each pet differently depending on their condition, history, prior testing, monthly preventative status and current recommendations by the Heartworm Society and board certified veterinary cardiologists.
Where do the adulticide injections go and what to expect post treatment?
A small area on your pet’s back will be shaved and cleaned. This is where the injection will be administered. The injection is placed deep within the back muscles on either side of the spine. After the injection(s), your pet may be sore, swollen and/or the skin may be discolored. There will be additional medication sent home after each treatment to help with swelling and minimize any adverse reactions to the dying heartworms. Your pet will need to continue monthly heartworm prevention for the rest of its life.
It is very important to keep your pet as quiet as possible during the treatment. The heartworms reside within the heart; as they die during treatment they are "pumped" into the lungs. The dog's immune system then cleans up the dead worms. Allowing your dog to exercise while their body is trying to dispose of the worms puts a tremendous amount of stress on both the heart and the lungs.
We recommend that your pet is leash walked, that means no running off leash or in a fenced in yard, during and one month after treatment. Your pet must continue on the heartworm medication monthly and be re-tested 5-6 months after treatment is completed.