What are Heartworms?
Heartworms are a blood parasite that live in the heart and surrounding vessels. A dog can only become infected with heartworms through mosquitoes. A mosquito that has bitten a positive dog will ingest the heartworm larvae. The next time it takes a meal, it will deposit the larvae on the dog and it will make its way into vessels and heart where it will mature. Here is a video that better demonstrates the lifecycle. Heartworm can be a very deadly disease, but it is one that is preventable.
Guide Lines for Heartworm Prevention
To prevent heartworm, a medication such as Heartgard Plus can be given monthly. There have been recent changes to the American Heartworm Society's guidelines for heartworm prevention. Currently, they recommend that all dogs be on heartworm prevention year round for optimal protection from this parasite. They also recommend yearly testing to ensure there was no infection due to a missed dose, and to hopefully catch the disease before clinical signs start to show.
In our region, we don't see many positive cases of heartworm. However, our dogs may be at risk from the tourist visiting from high incidence areas. That is why it is still important to have your dogs tested annually and placed on year round prevention.