Heartworm disease also known as Dirofilaria immitis is endemic in Australia. It is a widely prevalent disease that is found across Australia and it can be a fatal disease for dogs without proper treatment.
These worms live inside the lungs, heart and blood vessels of an infected animal and have the potential to grow up to a foot long. Also, these worms have a lifespan of up to 7 years and there have been cases where dogs who have been severely infested have been found to have more than 100 worms living inside them.
These worms clog the blood vessels and organs which often leads to irreversible damage to various body systems. If it is not treated on time, the dog is almost certain to die from heart failure.
How Does Heartworm Spread?
This disease is spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes feed on animals and when they suck blood from animals infected with heartworms, they also suck in microscopic baby worms called microfilariae. Once they bite the next animal, they pass on this infection through microscopic larvae into the dog’s bloodstream where the larvae start growing.
The microscopic larvae take around 7 months to become an adult heartworm and they also start reproducing inside the body.
Thankfully, there is medication available to prevent this disease from infecting your dog. It is available from most veterinarians and comes in the form of a monthly tablet or a yearly injection. Your veterinarian will help you make the right choice. Most dog owners prefer the yearly injection to avoid the risk of this disease in case they forget a dose of the preventative medication.
Why Is Heartworm Testing Necessary for Dogs Even after Giving Them Tablets Every Month?
You must be wondering why your vet recommends heartworm testing even if you have been religious about giving preventative medicine to your dog every month.
The preventive tablets for heartworm are highly effective but they are not 100% effective. Also, annual testing makes sure that the prevention program is working as it should even when you have been giving them preventive tablets each month regularly.
Usually, the tablet is hidden in dog food but there is always the possibility of your dog spitting out or vomiting a heartworm pill. If you are using a topical medication, they might rub it off. Since this disease is endemic in Australia, missing even one dose of the monthly medication puts them at greater risk of developing this infection.
Another thing you should know about this disease is that it is a progressive disease and early detection gives your pet a better chance of making a complete recovery. Testing is easy as only a small blood sample is required and that blood sample can also be used for various other tests. The testing is done by checking for the presence of heartworm proteins
In short, regular testing for heartworms makes sure that the preventive medication is working. If for some reason the preventive medication hasn’t been effective, the treatment can begin right away and that gives your dog a much better chance of making a complete recovery.
As far as the testing schedule is concerned, you should know that it takes at least 6 months for the test to return a positive result after infection. A puppy under the age of 7 months should be tested every 6 months and then, every year.
Dogs above the age of 7 months who are not on the preventive medication should be tested before they are started on heartworm prevention tablets. After starting heartworm medication, they should be tested at 6-month and 12-month intervals and annually after that.
Heartworm preventive tablets are highly effective but they are not completely foolproof. Also, there is always a chance that your dog may have spit out the monthly medication or might not ingest all of it. Keep in mind that missing the preventive medication even for a couple of days puts your dog at risk of heartworm infection.
Seek Professional Help at Toorak Road Vet Clinic
Regular testing makes sure that the disease is detected as early as possible. Also, early detection ensures that your dog may be able to make a complete recovery with minimum side effects. Toorak Road Vet Clinic is a team of dedicated and passionate professionals with years of experience.