Heartworms are parasitic worms that can become established in the heart and pulmonary vessels of dogs and sometimes even in cats and ferrets. If untreated, the presence of this parasite can lead to clinical signs of coughing, inability to exercise and eventually life threatening heart failure. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and does not require the dog to have had contact with any other dogs. This parasite was, until about 20 years ago, a problem seen mostly in the Southern U.S. but it has become established in Ontario and other parts of Canada.
How is my pet tested for heartworms?
Blood tests are used to confirm the presence of heartworms in pets. As the worms mature and multiply inside pets, they release proteins into the bloodstream and that is what we look for in a test. Because heartworms affect important organs like the heart and lungs, other diagnostic tests like ultrasound and X-rays may be performed to examine those organs.
When should my pet be tested for heartworms?
We recommend that pets be tested for heartworms in the following instances:
- Before they start taking a heartworm preventive or if they are switching to a different brand.
- All dogs should be tested 6 months after they have started the medication and at least once a year after.
What happens if my pet has heartworms?
Treating heartworms can be a lengthy process, but our team will be with you every step of the way. Our veterinarians will prescribe an effective medication to safely remove the worms from your pet. Your pet may also be prescribed a heart preventative and antibiotics to help eradicate the worms. While being treated for heartworms your pet will require special attention. You should restrict them from doing any physical activity, and keep them indoors and away from visitors. Our team will ensure that you are well-informed about your pet's treatment and recovery. To learn more, call us at 905-683-6430.