Ask the Vet: Why is Heartworm Prevention So Important?
Written by Dr. Melissa Magnuson
Heartworm prevention is a pill or chew that a dog takes monthly to prevent heartworm infection. Mosquitos spread heartworm disease; once a mosquito bites your dog, it can give your dog heartworm disease.
By giving a once a month pill, it kills all the baby heartworms growing in your dog. If you do not give the heartworm prevention pill monthly then the worms grow in the blood and develop into full size heartworm in about 6 months. Worms are about the size of a strand of spaghetti! This is why monthly heartworm prevention pills are so important. Once your dog is infected with heartworms, then it must be treated. The treatment is involved, dangerous and expensive. Most dogs require X-rays of their heart because heartworm disease can cause heart failure. X-rays are necessary to make sure the worms have not damaged the heart. Once treatment can be started a dog receives an injection of a medication to kill the heartworms, 30 and 31 days later, those injections are repeated. The injections are very painful and typically require hospitalization and pain medication. Strict rest is required after treatment because when the worms die, they can kill your dog if he or she does too vigorous of activity.
Treatment typically costs an owner $1200-1500. On the flip side, heartworm prevention the once a month pill) costs between $40-70 per year per dog. This is a much better option! Last year 138 dogs were diagnosed with heartworm disease in New Hampshire! That means your dog is at risk because dogs are infected and if dogs are infected the mosquitos are infected and could bite YOUR dog! Dogs are not the only mammals that can get heartworm, cats, ferrets and people can get heartworm too! So prevention is key—get your heartworm prevention today from your veterinarian!
About Melissa Magnuson, DVM
Dr. Melissa Magnuson is a native of southern Minnesota, where she grew up on a small pig and cattle farm. Ever since she can remember, she’s wanted to be a veterinarian and fulfill her lifelong passion of helping animals. With a degree in biology and philosophy from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, she went on to work on a master’s degree at Southern Mississippi University. From there, she completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1998. Her internship in small animal medicine, surgery, and emergency medicine brought her to the east coast. She has a special interest in surgery, emergency medicine, and avian and exotic animal care. Because she absolutely LOVES veterinary medicine, she never feels like she’s at work. She feels very lucky to have found her passion. Dr. Magnuson is married to her best friend, Andy, with whom she has three beautiful daughters. Her pets include four dogs, three cats, a bird, a bearded dragon, and a guinea pig. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family outdoors, biking, hiking, swimming, and reading.