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Most people who own dogs are aware that heartworm exists in our area and that their dogs are at risk of this parasite. But I am still amazed at the amount of ‘old wives tales’ that surround this condition and at the laxity of concern some owners have.

Despite tales to the contrary – heartworm is not spread from uncooked meat, nor from the dog eating any other animals faeces (though I still feel this is a disgusting habit and wouldn’t want to be kissed by those dogs), nor do dogs get this parasite from mixing with other animals or by swimming in dams etc.

Being bitten by mosquitoes infects the animals – there is a breed of mosquito that lives in our area that is the carrier of this parasite. This mosquito is very common and is here in large numbers

The ‘mozzy’ bites an infected dog and sucks up the baby heartworm – called Microfilaria. Once inside the mosquito, the microfilaria starts growing and changes to another stage of the life cycle that can re-infect other dogs.

This stage of growth, which can only occur in the mosquito is essential for the heartworm to become infective. In other words – if blood is taken from the dog with heartworm, and injected into the vein of another dog, then the second dog will NOT get heartworm.

When the infective mosquito bites the dog, then the now infective larvae enters the dog’s body with the saliva from the ‘mozzy’ and infects the dog. The larvae spend up to 6 months travelling around the body of the dog before adults form in the heart and lungs.

From then on the larvae live happily in the dogs body until it kills the animal

What are the chances of dogs in the Bundaberg area contracting heartworm if the owners do not use some sort of prevention? In my opinion is nearly at 90% chance that all dogs will have heartworm within 12 months.

There are 3 forms of heartworm prevention:

  1. A daily medication
  2. A monthly tablet or chewable
  3. A ‘spot on’ liquid that can be applied to the animal’s skin once a month

Most of them are restricted to sale by a veterinarian

If your dog is not on any prevention medication then it is important that you talk to your veterinarian before starting or you may cause your animal to get sick and possibly die

Personally, I feel that the monthly tablets called ‘Heartguard’, ‘Interceptor’ and ‘Sentinel’ are the best preventative medication but the others are very acceptable and if given at the right times and in the right manner then all of them work.

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