If you own pets and live in the Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island area, you are probably well aware of the dangers that can come from local parasites, such as ticks and fleas. However, not much is discussed about heartworm, which is a dangerous and potentially deadly disease that can come from a single mosquito bite. The best way to avoid this disease is through prevention, which comes in the form of heartworm treatment for dogs through your local animal hospital in Dartmouth. Regular testing for heartworm is required and should be part of your annual veterinary check-up. Unfortunately, only an estimated 50 percent of at-risk dogs who live in areas where heartworm occurs are actually taking heartworm preventive medication. The American Heartworm Society reveals that out of those who are on heartworm medication, only 75 percent actually receive every single dose, as required for prevention.
Visit Your South Coast Veterinarian
The best way to start your dog down the path to good health is to visit your local veterinarian. Heartworm can be a fatal disease, but it is not mandatory to have preventive heartworm treatment for dogs, as it is for rabies and other illnesses. All dogs should be tested annual for any signs of a heartworm infection. This gives your animal hospital in Dartmouth enough time to manage any infection that is found.
Before a preventive is given, testing must be received through a professional veterinary check-up. This is to ensure that there are no dangerous side-effects from the medication in an infected animal. If you are going to switch from one preventive treatment to another, your South Coast veterinarian should have your pet tested again, just to make sure that he is protected. In this case, testing more than once in a year may be required.
When Can Testing Occur?
If you have a brand new puppy, you may be able to start heartworm treatment for dogs without getting tested first, as long as your puppy is under seven months of age. The reason for this is that it can take six and a half months for a positive test to occur after being bitten by a mosquito that is infected. Once heartworm preventive is started, the puppy should be tested between four and seven months after the first dose to double-check for any infection that may have occurred prior to the initial treatment. Speak with your vet at the local animal hospital in Dartmouth to ensure that you schedule a veterinary check-up and testing appointment.
What to Expect
Heartworm testing, when done at your local South Coast veterinarian, involves a blood test that works in two ways. One is known as an “antigen” testing, which checks for specific antigens that come from adult female heartworms. The second test is an antibody test, which began in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Not used as much in dogs, as the antigen test has replaced this method, the test is still sometimes used in cats because it provides more accurate results.
When it comes to heartworm, it is better to be safe than sorry. Puppies do not receive any “immunity” from this disease through their mothers, so it is important to do testing right away, as soon as your veterinarian recommends. Establish a regular schedule of testing, especially if you are in a high-risk area. Ask about year-round treatment to ensure that your pet is protected during travel or in case the weather becomes more mosquito friendly earlier in the season or if the warm season lasts longer than expected.
You can take preventive measures a step further by doing everything you can to ensure that you are not contributing to the local mosquito population in your community. In addition to heartworm, mosquitoes transmit other diseases, such as West Nile virus or the Zika virus. Your beset bet is to control mosquitoes to prevent you, your family and your pets from being bitten. This can be accomplished by eliminating breeding sites, such as stagnant water and by putting mosquito fish into pools and ponds; reducing exposure, by staying indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active; and by using repellents, such as citronella or sandalwood to keep them out of your yard or patio area.
Schedule an Appointment at Anchor Animal Hospital
To get your pet tested for heartworm or to learn more about preventive measures, give us a call at 508-996-3731. You can schedule a veterinary check-up to get heartworm treatment for dogs and to make sure that your pet isn’t at-risk for any other type of seasonal parasite. Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth has provided top quality animal care for pets in the South Coast region since 1975.