Benalla Veterinary Clinic

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'Caring for your animals like family',

Heartworm

There are two broad categories of worms that may affect our pet dogs and cats, heartworm and intestinal worms.  See our intestinal worm page for more information.

Heartworm 

Heartworm, or Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes, so you pet does not even need to be in contact with other pets to become infected! (It is not an intestinal worm). 

Heartworm has a complicated life cycle.  Infected dogs have an immature form of heartworm called microfiliaria circulating in their bloodstream.  Microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when feeding on the blood of infected dogs. The immature parasite develops into a heartworm larva inside the mosquito, then a single bite from a carrier mosquito can infect your pet (dog or cat). As the worms mature in the heart they can cause a physical blockage as well as thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels.  In the earlystages of infection there may be no visible signs, however, infection may eventually lead to signs of heart failure (reluctance to exercise, lethargy,coughing) and even death. Heartworm is present throughout most of Australia (except Tasmania and arid areas). It has been recently (2014) been found in a fox from the Strathbogie Ranges, which means that dogs within our region are deemed at risk from our fox and wild dog population as well as the expoasure risk from the infected dogs travelling up and down the Hume highway. 

Thankfully, heartworm is very easy to prevent and should form part of your pet health care routine. We have very effective preventative treatment options available including tablets, chews, spot-on's and even an annual injection (Proheart SR12) for dogs administered by one of our vets.

For puppies, preventative treatment can be started from 12 weeks of age, and is recommended as the best option for your pup. No blood test is required if a pup is less than 6 months of age.

If your pet is over 6 months old and has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend a simple and quick heartworm test (blood test) prior to starting a prevention program, as use of a preventative product can cause serious illness when an active heartworm burden is present.

Please call us to discuss the best heartworm prevention for your pet.

 

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