This is peak season for mosquitoes in many geographical locations. Not only do these pests deliver itchy bites to us, they also might bite our pets. The problem with the bite of a mosquito for your dog is the potential for that mosquito to deliver the larvae of heartworms into your dog’s bloodstream.
Why is this important? Well, dogs living in all 50 states have been diagnosed with heartworms. Of course some areas are more troublesome, like the Gulf Coast and the Southeast United States. This is because of the number of mosquitoes and the population density.
If a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites your dog who is not taking heartworm preventive, your dog will become infected. The larvae grow to adults and reproduce, residing in the major blood vessels of the heart and lungs as well as the heart itself. Obviously, having worms living in the heart is not very good for overall health. Often, the first symptom that a dog is infected with heartworms is weight loss. Many medical problems can result in weight loss, so this is obviously not a sure sign that a dog is infected, but a blood test certainly is indicated.
Your veterinarian can draw blood to detect the adult heartworms living inside your dogs circulatory system and can also look at a drop of blood under the microscope to see the microfilaria (microscopic baby heartworms). If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, there is treatment available. However, it is expensive and not without possible complications, so prevention truly is the best medicine in this case.
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Veterinary Technical Services Department