SlimDoggy Health Check: Heartworm Pt. 1
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.
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.
In Part 2 of our Heartworm Health Check, we will investigate the causes, prevention and treatment of heartworm.