April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring puddles of water that are the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. A bite from an infected mosquito can cause your dog to be infected with heartworm, a potentially lethal infestation that’s easier to prevent than cure. Here’s what you need to know about preventing heartworm in your dog.
How your Dog is Infected
As mentioned, heartworm is caused by a bite from an infected mosquito. Once your dog is infected, they can’t transmit the disease to humans or other dogs, so you and your other pets are not at risk.
What Heartworm Is
Heartworm is a foot-long parasitic worm that invades the heart, lungs, and blood vessel of its host, your dog. After your dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes around 7 months for the heartworm larvae to become an adult heartworm.
Signs that Your dog Has Heartworm
Early on, there may be no signs that your dog is even sick. Eventually, symptoms will start to appear. A cough, lack of energy, weight loss, and reduced appetite are common signs of a heartworm infestation, though these can also be mistaken for other illnesses.
Why Checkups are Important
The only way to diagnose heartworm in your dog is to do a blood test at its annual checkup. If your vet finds evidence of heartworms, she’ll put your dog on a treatment plan to kill the heartworms without making your dog even sicker.
It’s far better to prevent a heartworm infestation than it is to try and cure one, so your vet will recommend that you give preventive medication every month to keep your pet safe. You may be tempted to skip giving the medication during the winter, but it’s not worth the risk to your pet’s health to do this. Mosquitoes may be rarely seen during the winter, but it only takes one bite to infect your dog, so protect them all year long.
It’s also a good idea to try and discourage mosquitoes from breeding in your garden by emptying any standing water you see, and consider having your garden sprayed for mosquitoes using a pet-friendly insecticide.