Prevention is key for toxic heartworm

Tegan PhillipsThe Kimberley Echo
Monthly chews and tablets are widely used to prevent heartworm in dogs.
Camera IconMonthly chews and tablets are widely used to prevent heartworm in dogs.

Dogs in the Kimberley are subject to many problematic parasites. One that is often talked about is heartworm.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about this particular nasty parasite, and although it’s common on the east coast, it still poses a very real risk here in the Kimberley.

Transferred by mosquitoes, all it takes is one bite from an infected insect to implant the larvae into your dog.

The larvae migrate from the tissue to the blood vessels and shortly move on to the heart, where they make themselves right at home, hence the name heartworm.

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From there they mature, and at six months the female releases microfilaria, or worm babies, into the bloodstream.

A new mosquito then bites the dog, and so the cycle continues. Now someone using your heart as a home can cause some serious health issues — heart failure, inflamed lung tissue, blood clots and blood vessel bursts, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, once infected the treatment can be just as dangerous as the problem — not to mention expensive.

That is why prevention is so important. There are now a few methods on the market — monthly chews and tablets are widely used and have great coverage as long as you don’t miss a dose.

More commonly used now is the yearly vaccination, which is for heartworm only and does not cover any other intestinal worms. However, it does ensure 12 months of protection.

Whichever method suits you, it’s always important to remember prevention is better than a cure.

Tegan Phillips is a veterinary nurse at Kimberley Vet.

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