National Heartworm Awareness Month: How You Can Protect Your Dog
Happy April! This month, we’re celebrating National Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworm is a severe and potentially fatal disease in pets that is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. It often leads to lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs. Dogs are unfortunately natural hosts for these parasites, meaning that all dogs are potentially at risk for infection. Obtaining Canine Liability Insurance will help with expenses of this nasty and unfortunately common disease, but prevention is always the best treatment method, and we want to share with you our advice for protecting your dog from contracting heartworm.
What is It?
Mosquitoes spread the disease by biting an infected animal and retrieving baby worms, which develop into “infective stage” larvae by two weeks. When the mosquito bites a dog, the infective larvae transfer onto the surface of the skin and enter the body through the bite wound. After about six months for the larvae mature into adult heartworms and can live for 5 to 7 years.
In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few or no symptoms at all. Initial signs of heartworm disease include:
- Mild, persistent cough
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
As the disease progresses, dogs can develop heart failure and fluid buildup in the abdomen, causing the appearance of a swollen, bloated stomach. Depending on the severity of the infection, a sudden blockage of blood flow to the heart may arise, which could lead to cardiovascular collapse. This is called “caval syndrome”, and can be recognized by labored breathing, pale gums, and dark blood- or coffee-colored urine. At this point, without quick surgical action to remove the heartworm blockage, it is likely that the dog will not make it.
For the survivors, heartworm disease results in permanent damage and may affect a dog’s quality of life long after the parasites are gone.
The good news is that heartworm disease is almost 100% preventable. Most veterinarians consider pharmaceutical measures to be the best way to prevent your dog from the infection.
Have your dog tested for heartworm disease. This simple test administered by your veterinarian requires a small blood sample from your dog. It detects the presence of heartworm proteins, and will let you know if you need to take further action. Dogs should be tested annually, even if they are on a heartworm preventative. The medicines are known to be effective, but testing confirms they are working.
Heartworm disease is dangerous and progressive. It has been detected in all 50 states, so proactive preventative measures are crucial. Consider the benefits of having dog liability insurance to protect your fur baby. Due to early symptoms of heartworm infection being so easy to miss, infected dogs can become seriously ill before the disease is recognized and treatment is begun. That’s why prevention is the best approach to control this serious risk to your beloved dog.
We’re about to enter mosquito season, and the first step in preventing disease is being proactive in maintaining a healthy dog. Be sure to take precautions and know that it could easily happen your pet.
There are many reasons a dog may bite, and it’s not always 100% preventable. In addition to financially protecting dog owners from dog bite claims, our Canine Liability Policy also covers other injuries to people, including scratches and fall injuries caused by dogs and injuries to other animals. Please contact us today for more information at (407) 865-7477, ext. 101.