Heartworm, a serious blood parasite, is transmitted to dogs through the bite of a mosquito. The immature worms (larva) travel to the heart where they develop into adults and can grow to be 15-30cm in length. The worms live in the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs. Consequently they damage the heart, lungs and liver. Death may result if this damage is severe enough.
Treatment for heartworm disease is available but it is costly and has serious side effects. Prevention is extremely important and can be started after a heartworm negative blood test. The preventative medication kills the larva that was transmitted by the Mosquitos before it reaches the heart.
Common Questions About Heartworm
Do I need to worry about heartworm in my area?
Yes!! Studies have shown that heartworm is diagnosed in several areas of Ontario. Therefore prevention is key for the health of your dog.
What about when I travel south for the winter?
There is an even higher rate of heartworm when you go south. Therefore it is extremely important to have your dog on preventative medication for heartworm and other parasites if you are traveling south.
If my dog is always indoors and never gets bitten by a mosquito, does it need a heartworm prevention program?
Mosquitos are everywhere during the summer months in Ontario and it only takes the bite of 1 infected mosquito to infect your dog.
There are parasites that live on your dog’s skin and parasites that live inside your dog.
Fleas are the most common parasite that live on the skin. They bite your dog and take some blood as a meal. This can cause skin irritation and is often itchy. If your dog eats any fleas while grooming, they can transmit a tape worm to your dog. Although fleas may bite people, they will not live on our skin nor are they able to transmit a tapeworm to us.
Other types of parasites that live on the skin of your dog include mites and lice.
A number of medications are available to prevent these parasites which are convenient, safe and effective. Fleas can live for many months in your house. They will also infect any other dogs, cats or fuzzy pets you have in your household.
Parasites that live inside your dog, other than heartworm include coccidia, giardia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms. An analysis of your dogs feces will help to determine if your dog has these parasites. Your dog can be infected with the parasites and you may not notice anything in the feces. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to people. To help prevent transmission both to people and pets, it is important to always pick feces up right away. Washing your hands prior to food preparation and after disposing of feces will prevent transmission to people as well.
Do Parasites Cause “Scooting”?
Scooting is where your dog pulls itself along the ground while the Rear end drags. This is usually caused by impacted anal glands not parasites. We can remove the impacted material.