Heartworm Testing

Increasing the chance of survival by reducing the risk of contracting heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal disease that is transmitted through mosquitoes. Heartworm testing is recommended before starting preventative medication to ensure that your dog has not already contracted heartworm disease.

All dogs in the Manitoban region are at risk of heartworm disease and should be on preventative medication during the warm mosquito season.

If a dog has heartworms, what symptoms should I look for?

The signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, coughing, exercise intolerance, weakness, difficulty breathing and heart failure. However, symptoms may not appear in the early stages of the disease. Unfortunately, this means that by the time we see the signs, the disease will already be well advanced. Routine blood test screening can catch any infections early on, allowing time for proper treatment.

How does a dog get heartworms?

A mosquito transmits heartworm larvae from one infected animal to another through its bite. Larvae enter a dog’s bloodstream where it will then migrate to the heart and surrounding blood vessels. There the larvae will grow into adult worms about 6 – 14 inches in length. One dog could have hundreds of worms present when diagnosed.

What are the treatment options for heartworms?

To treat for heartworm disease an injectable drug is given to kill the adult heartworms. There is some risk involved when treating heartworm disease. The treatment has a 95% success rate, but this result depends on the degree of infection and how advanced the disease is. A series of injections are required for treatment, followed by 30 days of rest, then two more injections are given 24 hours apart from each other.

Why is recovery for heartworm treatment so challenging?

Recovery from heartworm disease can be challenging as the burden of heartworms are being broken down after they die. During the first week after treatment, the heartworms die. A few days after that, they start decomposing and can be carried back to the lungs, where they become lodged in small blood vessels and are eventually reabsorbed by the body. It can be a dangerous period for the dog. During this period, it is imperative that they are kept as quiet and calm as possible. They are also not allowed to exercise for one month after the last treatment.

Significant reactions to the treatment include loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe coughing, coughing up blood, fever or depression.

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