What is heartworm disease? Heartworms are worms that can live in an animal’s respiratory system from the heart to lungs and associated blood vessels. Heartworms can infect dogs, cats and even ferrets, but really can infect other mammals from coyotes and foxes. Heartworms are a major cause of concern for all dog and cat owners in the United States. The disease is present in all 50 states and all times of the year. Last year here at Pinnacle Veterinary Clinic we treated XXX patients. Heartworm larvae take six months to mature. Your dog could test negative and actually be infected with heartworms; it takes six months before your pet will register as positive because of the incubation period. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, which become infected with heartworms when they feed on an infected dog or wild animal such as coyotes and foxes (which can be found near our homes in Southwest Missouri.) Mosquitoes transmit the heartworms from an infected animal to a healthy animal when the mosquitoes feed on the animals. Once the heartworms are deposited by the mosquito, the larvae will mature over a six month period. The heartworms can live up to 7 years in the host—causing major damage to your pet. Why are heartworms so deadly? Heartworms can multiply into the hundreds inside the dog’s body (if left unchecked) and cause major damage to the heart, lungs and even arteries. This damage can not be reversed, will impact your pet’s quality of life and will eventually kill the animal. Prevention is the best practice, and your pet should be on heartworm prevention year-round. Testing – When Should I test my dog? All dogs should be tested annually to make sure the heartworm prevention is working. If you miss just one treatment of heartworm prevention your pet could become infected. It takes approximately six months before your pet would test positive for heartworms. It’s imperative you have your dog on a heartworm prevention protocol and give it monthly as scheduled (even in the winter months). Heartworm prevention is the best course of action but is not 100% effective. The annual testing is the only way to be sure your pet is heartworm free. The American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year. Read more about heartworm testing recommendations in dogs and cats from the American Heartworm Society> Here at Pinnacle Veterinary Clinic, we offer convenient in-office testing and labs right in the clinic for timely results—often in as little as 30 minutes. We offer multiple types of Heartworm prevention for as little as $10 per month. Check out our heartworm prevention treatments in our online store! Heartworm prevention should be started on puppies as young as 7 months of age and continue for the life of your dog. Can I check to see if my dog has heartworm? Most of the time, in the early stages of the disease, your pet will display no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, more signs may present themselves such as cough, weight loss, wheezing, easily fatigued and even heart failure. Testing is the best method of diagnosing and confirming heartworm infestation. Schedule Your Heartworm Appointment Today!