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Does my dog need a monthly heartworm preventative?

Does my dog need a monthly heartworm preventative?

Heartworm disease is a very serious parasitic disease that has the potential to be fatal for your dog if he is not treated quickly. This parasite is a worm that can grow up to a foot long and lives inside the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of an infected animal where it will reproduce over and over. Heartworms have a lifespan of up to seven years, and it is not unheard of for a badly infested dog to have upwards of 150 worms living in their body. By clogging up these organs and blood vessels, the worms cause irreversible damage to the them and other body systems. Eventually, if not treated, your dog is almost guaranteed to die from heart failure.

How is heartworm disease contracted?

Heartworms are spread by mosquitos. When a mosquito feeds on an animal with heartworms, they take some of the infection into their body in the form of microscopic baby worms known as microfilaria. They then pass these on to them next animal that they bite. These microscopic larvae enter your dog’s bloodstream where they migrate to the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels. It takes around seven months for them to grow into adult heartworms, but once they do, they are capable of reproducing. Since they have such a long lifespan, it is possible for a single heartworm to reproduce many times. As such, it is not surprising that the number of worms in a dog can grow rapidly.

If you have two dogs and only one has heartworms, there is no risk of them passing the disease on to your other pet. Although dogs are the natural host for heartworms, they can also affect cats, ferrets, foxes and wolves.

Preventing heartworm disease

As a dedicated and compassionate owner, you will invariably want to do all you can to keep your dog safe from this awful disease. The good news is that heartworms are entirely preventable.

Before you can start your dog on preventative medications, he first needs to be tested for heartworms. In fact, any vet in Ponte Vedra, FL will insist that heartworm testing is either part of your canine’s annual wellness exams or recommended as a result of a wellness exam. This is for two reasons. Firstly, to ensure that his preventative program is working, and secondly, because the symptoms of a heartworm infestation don’t tend to become apparent until there are a large number present in his body. Dogs are masters of disguising the face that they are unwell and will keep going until they cannot cover their symptoms any longer. Equally, heartworm symptoms don’t usually appear until after they reach adulthood – approximately seven months after becoming infected. If at the initial test, your dog is found to have heartworms, treatment will be needed before prevention can begin. However, if your dog is in the clear, he can be started on monthly medication to protect him from the disease.

Heartworm preventatives are generally given as a monthly dose and are available in several different types. These include monthly pills that you can hide in his food and topical treatments that you place on his skin that will deter mosquitos. Currently, there is also an injectable preventative that will protect your dog for up to six months at a time. The most important thing to remember with any preventative is to stick to the schedule of administering doses as recommended by your vet. Being even a couple of days late could leave your canine pal at risk of contracting heartworms. Make sure you carefully track the dates that you administer your choice of preventative and set reminders for the next dose. If you aren’t sure which preventative to choose, consult with your veterinarian.

Are heartworm preventatives expensive?

Everyone knows that veterinary bills can be expensive, and many owners are concerned about the cost of preventative medications for their pets. Firstly, we can assure you that preventing heartworms is far less expensive than having to treat the condition. In fact, a year’s supply of heartworm medication typically comes in at between $40 and $100 – that is less than the price of two fancy store-bought coffees a month for the whole year. When you consider that research has found that the average cost of treating a canine with heartworms is between $400 and $1000, prevention definitely illustrates good value for money. And of course, that is without taking into account that you can prevent your dog from a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, and irreversible damage to his health.


If you would like more information on heartworm prevention, our friendly and experienced veterinarians in Ponte Vedra, FL would be happy to help. Please contact us by calling our Animal Hospital in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL at  today.

Published April 1, 2019

Why Does My Pet Need an Annual Exam?

Why Does My Pet Need an Annual Exam?

As a pet parent, you know your dog or cat's most coveted snacks, favorite window perches, or places to go on walks. You even know which side of your bed they like to sleep on! However, you can't see when your pet's kidneys start to slow down or recognize if their joints are beginning to ache because of hip dysplasia or knee pain. Your pet's veterinarian can help you by detecting a problem in its early stages - when it's more likely to be treatable or resolved with less expense, less difficulty, and better success.

Wellness exams (every six months to once per year) are essential to help detect any changes that come with aging, such as arthritis and dental disease. During those pet wellness exams, your vet can go over important life stage changes like appropriate dietary recommendations and how to maintain an appropriately active lifestyle for your pet. Parts to the wellness exam include listening to the heart, feeling the abdominal organs, checking hips and knees, and also checking their dental health: teeth and gums. Blood work often plays a vital role in evaluating organ function and aids in detecting infection, anemia, diabetes, kidney failure, thyroid disease and other medical conditions.

Cats and dogs age at a much more rapid rate than we do, and it is vital to play a proactive role in your pet's health. Cats, in particular, tend to live through extended senior stages starting as early as about eight years old and going on into their geriatric stages at around 13-15 years old. Cats are very good at hiding when they don't feel well, so often they don't come to the veterinarian's office until they are very sick.

Dogs, depending on their breeds or mixes, can have specific genetic predispositions, and age at very different rates. A Chihuahua becomes a senior around 8-9 years old, whereas a Great Dane becomes a senior around 4-5 years old. Your veterinarian can help tailor your specific dog's wellness screening based on what type of dog you have and your dog's age. For example, owners of Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Dobermans, and Cocker Spaniels should consider doing regular EKG's and chest X-Rays in their senior years to help detect early changes in their hearts. These breeds can be predisposed to cardiac conditions such as Mitral Valve Disease or Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Owners of senior Golden Retrievers may want to consider abdominal X-Rays to detect that breed's predisposition for developing splenic tumors. Ask your vet next time you go in, based on what type of dog you have, if he or she has any specific suggestions of wellness screening tests or preventative measures that you can take to help keep your dog healthy and safe.

Just like with our own health, it is always best to be proactive and take preventative measures to help your pet live a comfortable and happy life. Routine pet wellness exams with your veterinarian can help you play an active role in your pet's longevity. After all, we want to be together to experience life's adventures for as long as we possibly can.

Contact Animal Care of Ponte Vedra today for pet wellness exam appointments.

Published August 1, 2019