A heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream—harming arteries and vital organs as they go—ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and the heart chamber about six months after the initial infection. Several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years. Heartworm disease is serious, and can be fatal. Heartworms have been found in all 50 states but is most prevalent in the southern part of our nation.
At Riverview Animal Hospital, heartworm disease is diagnosed by examination, x-rays or ultrasound, and a veterinarian-administered blood test. All dogs and cats should be routinely screened with a blood test for heartworm either annually in spring, at the start of mosquito season, or before being placed on a new prescription for a heartworm preventive.
Treatment for heartworms is costly and lengthy. Once the medicine is given the worms begin to die, meaning they break into small pieces which can occlude a pulmonary vessel or become lodged in the small arteries of the body. Therefore, while waiting to be heartworm free your pet must be kept quiet and as immobile as possible. This is very stressful to the pet as their natural instinct is to run around and be playful.
The most effective treatment for heartworms is prevention. Riverview Animal Hospital carries most preventative medicines, which come in several forms such as pills, injectable medicine and even tasty treats.