Heartworm disease is a parasitic condition caused by infestation with the worm dirofilaria immmitis. This parasite is spread from infected dogs through mosquito bites. Heartworm disease is prevalent in Wisconsin due to our location in the United States and our high mosquito population in the warmer months. Heartworm disease is found in many states through the United States; it is more prevalent in states that border the Mississippi river and in the Southeast. Due to the fact that mosquitoes are the carrier for this disease, all dogs are at risk for this disease regardless of lifestyle, including ‘indoor’ dogs, hunting dogs, and farm dogs.

Heartworm disease can be treated, but the cost of the treatment is high and there is a risk to the patient even with successful treatment. Because of this, prevention of the disease is considered a better option for our canine family members. Prevention is done though the use of monthly preventatives that are given year-round. Year-round use of heartworm preventatives is recommended for many reasons. First, it eliminates the need to try to time the medication to coincide with the onset of the emergence of mosquitoes. Second, monthly use of the preventatives is easier to remember and reduces the chances of missed doses. Last, the monthly heartworm preventatives protect against intestinal parasites as well, which are a year-round problem.

Annual testing for heartworms is recommended by most of the veterinary medical organizations nationwide, including the American Veterinary Medical association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and the American Heartworm Society. The use of the preventatives in a dog that is positive for heartworms can cause serious medical complications and should be avoided. Juvenile dogs (less than 6 months of age) are frequently started on heartworm prevention without testing.

The Sun Prairie Pet Clinic has many options for heartworm testing and prevention. All of these options are reviewed with the veterinarian annually and recommendations are made based on your pet’s lifestyle, age, and concurrent medical conditions. Please feel free to contact our Clinic with any questions regarding heartworm disease and prevention.