All good pet owners want to prevent illness in their furry family members. While you're feeding your pets a healthy diet and making sure they get plenty of exercise, it's also crucial to take steps for heartworm prevention. At Crosspointe Animal Hospital in Fairfax Station, VA, we're on a mission to help all pet owners understand the risks associated with heartworms and know what they need to do for preventative care. If you live in Fairfax, Clifton, Lorton, or any of the surrounding areas, let's work together to ensure your four-legged friend has many long and happy years left, heartworm free!
What Are Heartworms?
Dirofilaria immitis, also known as heartworms, are small, thin, thread-like worms that dwell within the heart or a host creature. This parasitic infestation leads to a variety of symptoms and disease, including heart failure. Left untreated or caught too late, heartworms can be fatal to dogs. The worms are actually a type of roundworm, but they are referred to as “heartworms” to make the distinction between other roundworm parasites.
Signs of Heartworm Infection
Heartworm infection usually goes unnoticed at first, and even an experienced veterinarian may not notice anything is off right away. However, the earlier the presence of heartworms is caught, the easier it is to treat. Any dog exhibiting the following signs should be brought in to an animal hospital quickly to get checked for heartworm:
- Persistent cough or strained breathing
- Fatigue / tiring quickly after short periods of exercise
- Reluctance to run or do anything exercise-related they used to enjoy
- Lost interest in playtime
- Swollen or distended belly
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in appetite (particularly reluctance to eat)
- Overall weak / tired demeanor
Ask our veterinarian about regular blood testing as part of your dog's preventative care.
How Heartworms Are Spread
Heartworms are spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes are prevalent here in Virginia, and the majority of dogs naturally love to play outside and socialize, pet owners need to be vigilant with heartworm preventative care.
Are There Vaccinations for Heartworm Prevention?
Until recent years, there were no vaccinations approved for controlling heartworms. Now, however, there is one FDA-approved vaccine for heartworm prevention in canines. The vaccine is effective for 12 months, so your dog will need to receive it once a year. Many pet owners choose to get it done as part of their dog's routine annual checkup.
Take Action! Get Your Dog's Heartworm Prevention Now!
Are you a dog owner in the Fairfax, Clifton, or Lorton areas? Our veterinarian at Crosspointe Animal Hospital is ready to help! Give us a call today to schedule an appointment for your pet. Be sure to ask us about setting up routine vaccinations for your pets as well.