Heartworm disease is an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes. A mosquito carrying the heartworm larvae essentially injects these microscopic larvae into your dog by way of mosquito bite. The larvae mature into adult heartworms that can grow to a foot long. The adult worms set up shop in the heart, preventing proper functioning of the heart and eventually sending the dog into congestive heart failure.
While heartworm disease has long been present in New England, we have seen a recent uptick in cases in our area, likely riding in on the coattails of rescue dogs brought to New England from other parts of the country where heartworm disease is prevalent.
Heartworm testing should be done once a year. This simple blood test checks for heartworm and also screens for common tick-borne diseases seen in the area, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichia, and anaplasmosis.
We have a very effective preventive measure to protect your dog against heartworm: a once-monthly, flavored, chewable medication that most dogs eat as a treat. This medication works very well at keeping your dog from getting heartworm disease, and also treats intestinal parasites at the same time.
Heartworm prevention is critically important because treatment of heartworm disease is expensive and carries with it some risks and discomfort for your dog. Further, in recent years we have seen growing resistance to the treatment protocol. Thus it is important to give the once-monthly heartworm preventive regularly, and year-round.