Getting a new puppy is a very exciting time for everyone in the family.
It is also a time when you will have a lot of questions about the care and wellbeing of your new family member.
This article is intended to answer any questions regarding heartworm and your puppy.
It is not intended to replace the advice and expertise of your Veterinarian.
Puppies can get heartworms from their mother – true or false?
True, puppies can be infected with the tiny microfilariae, the first larval stage of heartworms from their mother’s blood whilst they are still in her womb if she has adult heartworm infection. There is a lot of confusion about this point in information I have read online. I believe the reason why some information states that your puppy cannot get heartworms from the mother is because a puppy cannot go on to develop heartworm disease from these tiny larvae. This is because the lifecycle of the worms is such that they cannot grow into adults without first being transmitted via a mosquito to another dog or puppy. So yes, it is true that puppies can get heartworm larvae from their mothers but this will not cause them major health problems.
When should my puppy start on a heartworm preventative treatment program?
Your puppy should start treatment at around two to three months of age. Your veterinarian will recommend which medicine is best for your puppy and work out the correct dosage according to your puppy’s weight.
Does my puppy need a heartworm test before starting the preventative treatment?
If your puppy starts heartworm treatment well before he or she is six months of age, no test will be needed. If your puppy does not start a preventative treatment program until he or she is six or seven months of age, your vet will recommend a test to rule out any possibility that your dog has heartworm infection. The first heartworm testing is then usually done when your pup is around 12-15 months old.
Why is a heartworm test necessary, my dog is on heartworm prevention medicine?
Your vet will recommend a heartworm test annually to ensure that there is no possibility of infection having occurred, either as a result of a missed dose or doses, or in the very rare circumstance that the medicine has not worked effectively.
Why do vets recommend preventative treatment rather than treating a dog if it gets infected?
Prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. Because heartworm symptoms may be completely absent in the early stages of infection, dogs with heartworm disease may not get diagnosed until quite late on when other internal damage may already have occurred, sometimes with results that will cause the dog problems for the rest of its life. In some cases, the worm burden is so severe that the dog cannot be saved, even with surgery and this is a very sad outcome for everyone.
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Do vets administer an annual heartworm test as a part of the annual check-up or do you have to specifically request a heartworm test from your vet?
Most veterinarians will recommend a yearly test for blood parasites – not just heartworm but other parasites including lyme disease and other ‘nasties’ – a vet will want to be certain before your dog continues with the heartworm preventative, that he does not test positive for heartworm as continuing with preventatives under those circumstances could have very serious consequences.
If you are getting your prescription for heartworm from your vet, he must be sure that your dog is not heartworm positive to satisfy the requirements of the drug manufacturers as the medications stipulate that they are only to be prescribed to dogs who have tested negative for heartworm.
Some vets will allow you to only have a test every two years for your dog if you are buying your prescription medicine through them, have bought all the doses for a year from them and are confident that you have not missed giving a dose.
Personally, I would prefer an annual test for the peace of mind.