SlimDoggy Health Check: Heartworm Pt. 1

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Today we begin a new semi-regular series on SlimDoggy – the SlimDoggy Health Check. In this series, we plan to take a closer look at various canine diseases, their cause, treatment and prevention. Our goal will be to keep each synopsis brief and to the point, with a focus on how fitness and nutrition may (or may not) play a role. NOTE: We are not veterinarians and do not encourage diagnosing your dog via the internet, so please, if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, see your own vet ASAP.
Today we start with Heartworm.

SlimDoggy Health Check

When we first moved to California we didn’t have a dog. We both had dogs back east and knew enough about various mosquito/tick born parasites to ensure our dogs were inoculated or treated. But when we moved here and got our dog Sally, we didn’t think about heartworm because at the time it was uncommon in CA and our vet never mentioned it to us.
When Sally was about 8 months old, she got sick. We weren’t sure what it was, but being new parents off to the vet we went. We saw a new vet and she made a rash and incorrect initial diagnosis of “possibly heartworm”. It turns out it was nothing – probably a passing cold or something, but it totally freaked me out. This was in the mid-90’s and the scare around heartworm and it’s likely death sentence got to me and I made sure I dosed Sally and eventually Tino religiously. This misdiagnosis was particularly bothersome since the microfilariae (worms) take 5 to 7 months to develop into heartworms and the disease is rarely seen in dogs under two years of age.
Misdiagnosis aside, Heartworm is still a very serious disease, but I think that the furor over proper treatment has died down to a more rational approach – much the same as has happened with other vaccinations such as rabies.
Researching this post, I stumbled upon this fabulous website: Companion Animal Parasite Council, a website devoted to “foster animal and human health, while preserving the human-animal bond, by generating and disseminating credible, accurate and timely information for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of parasitic infections”. While the council is funded by many pharmaceutical companies who make medications, vaccines, etc. to combat the parasites inflicting our pets, so it may be a little self-serving, the information is interesting and informative.
In the section on Canine Heartworm, they provide a thorough explanation of the disease and it’s lifecyle, control prevention and a complete list of references. It’s written from a more technical point of view – more suited for Vets that laypeople, but they also offer extensive information about the prevalence and risk of the disease and a map of the disease incidence by state and county. They have similar information for other parasitic diseases as well.
capc heartworm prevalence
In Part 2 of our Heartworm Health Check, we will investigate the causes, prevention and treatment of heartworm.

Guidelines from the American Heartworm Society
Heartworms in Dogs: Facts and Myth
Heartworm Disease in Dogs
The Billion Dollar Heartworm Scam


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  1. Heartworms are so scary. I am crazy about staying on top of prevention as I’ve seen how hard it is to treat.
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Top 5 of 2014My Profile

  2. An apt topic as most of us give our heartworm preventative pills on the 1st of each month! We give our dogs their pills all year long because the pills kill other parasites too (but there are no mosquitoes here in the winter).

    I’m glad that Sally didn’t have heart worm.

    Happy New Year to you.

  3. Great post and like the health series you are going to be doing. Some years we will treat a couple dogs and others none. Mostly it is dogs brought up from down south here for adoption. We did have one client dog that the lady forgot to give the medication for a couple months and it ended up with heartworm. Not fun for the dog to treat or for the owners pocketbook.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~The PullerMy Profile

  4. Sounds like a great series. I know of two dogs who recently got heart worms. The first is about a year and a half old. Granted the dogs travels quite a bit to test and to hunt, but it summers here in Michigan. Dog went to the vet with a cough and it turned out to be heart worm. Heart Guard is paying for treatment which is complete except for the resting period. The second is a dog who lives in Detroit. He is a house dog. He was treated religiously, but he gained some weight which put him above the weight recommendation on the package. (We have had to deal with this with Thunder who at times may hit 100lbs and the package high weight is 100.) The vet knew the dog was over but did not change the dosing. It is important to administer the correct dosing to be effective. Both of these cases were within the last year. I know of others, but those are the most recent.

    Thanks so much for sharing this on the hop.

  5. What a wonderful series to follow. I am particularly interested in heart worm prevention. Can’t wait for more, more, more 🙂

  6. I’m not too concerned about heartworm here in southern California because there just aren’t many mosquitoes, at least where I live. I moved here from North Dakota, where in the summer I would sometimes have 50 mosquito bites at one time and even then I only gave heartworm prevention to my dog every six weeks in the warmer months (none in the winter). Here, I’m sticking with that same schedule (every six weeks but year round) since it’s what I’m comfortable with at least at this time.

    I think in general, dog owners are overly concerned about heartworm, but we all have to make the best decisions for our own dogs based on the risks, our comfort level, etc.
    Lindsay recently posted…My Perfect Pet review and giveaway – fresh, lightly cooked dog foodMy Profile

    • You are right. We never have mosquitoes around here and I haven’t given heartworm to Jack or Maggie. I hate over-medicating them for something that is unlikely to happen.
      mkob recently posted…SlimDoggy Maggie | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

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