Tips on heartworm prevention with VCA Hawaii

Sponsored by VCA Hawaii

Heartworms are nematodes called Dirofilaria immitis that take up residence in the animal’s blood vessels, heart, and lungs. They can even grow up to a foot long in length and can live up to seven years. Results of heartworm infestation are inflammation, permanent internal damage and sometimes death.

Transmission of heartworms is normally caused by mosquitoes. When a female mosquito bites an infected dog, they pick up microscopic baby heartworms called microfilariae. The babies mature into larvae inside the misquote for 10 to 14 days, and are transmitted after the mosquito bites a uninfected dog. These larvae navigate their way through the animal’s tissue, eventually ending up in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

According to Dr. Jennifer Nishimura of VCA Hawaii, the disease is so much easier to prevent than it is to treat. “The first thing we want to do is to basically test your dog because if he already has an adult infection, we can’t use our normal preventatives,” says Dr. Nishimura. Treatment of heartworms involves multiple injections over several months, anti-biotics or steroids, and a higher risk of complications.

There are many kinds of FDA approved preventatives on the market. Dr. Nishimura recommends the monthly oral chewables, which come in different flavors and contain ivermectin and milbemycin. There are also secondary medications like topicals that are applied on the skin and an injection that helps prevent heartworms continuously over the next 12 months.

About VCA Hawaii:
VCA Hawaii strives to provide the very best in medical care, and the hospitals provide a full range of general, surgical and specialized care. This is how VCA Hawaii veterinarians would treat their own pets, and it offers nothing less than that to you and your pet. VCA Hawaii understands your pets are a big part of your family and will be there for you every step of the way when it comes to your pets’ health.

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