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Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm Prevention at Laveen Veterinary Center

Are you aware of how heartworm disease is transmitted and what effects that it has on your pet?  Do you know how easy heartworm disease is to prevent?  Are you aware of the cost of prevention vs cost and health risks of treatment?  Is your dog on heartworm prevention?

The lifecycle of heartworm disease starts with the MOSQUITO, which acts as a carrier of the parasite and transmits disease to dogs.

A mosquito bites a heartworm positive dog and ingests microfilariae (immature heartworms circulating in the blood of a positive dog).  These microfilariae quickly mature inside the mosquito.  

Next, the carrier mosquito bites another dog and transmits the parasite to the dog.  Over the next several weeks, the immature worm will migrate and mature on its path to the heart and large blood vessels of the newly infected dog.  If undetected heartworm disease may cause – congestive heart failure, pulmonary embolism, severe inflammatory lung disease and death.

Unfortunately heartworm disease is on the rise in Phoenix and Maricopa county – Antech diagnostic labs report a 46% increase from 2012 to 2013 in heartworm positive tests!!!  This is scary, especially since South Phoenix and Laveen have so many mosquitos.

Heartworm disease is easily prevented with monthly preventative medication.  This medicine works to kill heartworm larva once your dog has been bitten by a carrier mosquito.  Today no medications exist to prevent mosquitos biting your pet, but fortunately prevention of heartworm disease is extremely effective.   When deciding to begin any treatment plan, you always need to weigh risks vs rewards.  This prophylactic plan seems like a no-brainer to me.  The cost of monthly prevention will vary based on the size of your dog.  On average it costs about $6 per month for prevention of a small breed dog and $10 per month for a large breed dog.  The risks of administering the preventative are exceedingly low, adverse reactions to the medication were about 1%, the most common problem was either vomiting or diarrhea following administration.  Now, let’s compare the other side of the situation.  Treatment of heartworm disease will include diagnostics (typically multiple sets of X rays and bloodwork),  1-3 injections of an antiparasitic medication and hospitalization costing >$1000.  In addition, risks of treatment include embolism of dead worms into the lungs, anaphylatic reactions, pneumonia and death – treatment of heartworm disease is very serious.  

In addition to the heartworm disease prevention, many products will also prevent gastrointestinal parasites commonly seen in Laveen and Phoenix such as roundworms and hookworms.

Our recommendation at Laveen Veterinary Center is clear – ALWAYS have your dog on heartworm prevention.

Sara Simanton, CVT 

Laveen Veterinary Center