Friday, June 18, 2010
The fancy, scientific name for heartworms is Dirofilaria immitis. Dogs are the most usual host of the heartworm, but wolves, coyotes, foxes, cats, ferrets, and sea lions can also get them. Sometimes even a human can get heartworms, but they don't live long inside a human, so it's not a big deal like it is when a dog gets heartworms.
But the good news is that you don't need to wait until you have nasty symptoms to find out if you have heartworms. You can just get a blood test, and then your vet will tell you if you have them or not. If you do have them, you can get a treatment that will kill the heartworms, but it is not a fun treatment, and also it is expensive. And the most usual kind of treatment is this stuff called Immiticide. It's got arsenic in it, which is poisonous, and that's how it kills the worms. And the vet has to shave two places on your back, near your tail, and they inject the poison there. Mom saw a dog at the shelter getting this treatment, and it looked very painful.
But the even better news is that you can keep from getting heartworms in the first place by just asking your mom or dad to give you what's called a heartworm preventive. At our house, we get Heartgard, and Mom just puts it in our supper once a month, and we gobble it up with our food because it's very yummy. And what it does is if we have been infected in the past month with any heartworm larvae, the preventive will kill them. We get Heartgard every month, all year round, even though the mosquitoes don't usually bite in the winter. But Mom wants to keep us safe, which is one thing that makes her a good mom!