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Heartworm - FAQ on Treatment, Causes and Medicine

 

                                               Answers to Frequent Heartworm Questions

Many dog owners have a great number of questions when it comes to heartworms.  All pet owners know that they are dangerous to pets, but beyond this, the parasites remain a mystery.
 

  • Transmitting Heartworms

Dog owners are concerned about the possibility of one pet passing heartworms on to another pet.  While it is impossible for a pet to directly transmit the disease to another dog, heartworms can be indirectly transmitted through mosquitoes.  This is because a mosquito that bites a pet with heartworms becomes a carrier of the disease.  If it then bites another pet, it can infect that pet as well. 

It is also possible for humans to acquire heartworms from mosquitoes.  The worms do not, however, generally circulate to the human heart as they do with pets.  Instead, the larvae affect the eyes or lungs.  Heartworm infections in human eyes are rare, but it can occur.
 

  • Problems with Heartworm Medications

Most pets do not have a problem with taking heartworm medication, however giving more than the recommended dose can be dangerous.  In addition, certain dogs are more susceptible to having a negative result when given too much heartworm medication.  These dogs are those with a genetic link to collies, such as shelties, Australian shepherds, border collies and collies.  To reach unsafe levels, however, the dog would need to receive 10 to 20 times the normal dose.  Normal doses of heartworm medication, which are effective in killing the developing larvae, are safe for dogs. 

Some dogs, on the other hand, can be allergic to chewable heartworm disease prevention medication.  Some are allergic to the medication itself, while others are allergic to the flavoring agents added to the medication.  For those that are allergic to flavoring agents, switching to a chewable unflavored medication should solve the problem.
 

  • Missing a Dose

If a pet owner misses two months of Heartworm disease prevention medication, it is normally best to resume the medication as usual.  The pet should, however, be tested in about seven months as this is the approximate period of time it takes for the worm to mature and produce the antigens necessary to test for the disease.  Even a couple months is long enough for a pet to become infected, particularly during certain times of the year.  

If you live in an area with cold winters and the medication was skipped during this time, the pet should still be safe.  In general, pets in "cold winter" climates only need heartworm medication from June through to November.  Nonetheless, most veterinarians recommend protecting pets from heartworms throughout the entire year in order to keep it safe and to ensure the pet owner maintains a regular schedule.