Two of the most commonly asked questions are "What is heartworm disease" and "Why does my dog need a test every year if I give the medication as directed?"
Heartworm disease in dogs is bad news. These worms can be transmitted by infected mosquitoes from dog to dog during the warm weather months. Even if a dog doesn't go out much he can still contract it. All it takes is one mosquito in the house or yard. A dog with this disease has an abundance of these parasites inside its heart. As you can imagine this can mean major problems because as the worms multiply they make it harder and harder for the heart to work properly. The treatment involves using an arsenic drug that makes the dog very sick before making it better, if it does get better. Typically the dog spends a day or two at a time in the hospital several weeks apart for treatment which must be administered and monitored very closely. In general it is better to prevent this disease rather than treat it.
Generally , vets recommend a blood test every spring (March- May) to determine if the dog is negative for heartworm. If he is negative, then he is put on preventative medication from March to December. The reason for the test is simple: if a dog has heartworm disease and is given the preventative he can experience major problems. Medication simply doesn't solve an existing problem, so you should never start giving the medicine without the blood test. Some people keep their dogs on preventative 12 months a year, in this case a blood test is only required every other year. The blood test is not a gimmick your vet has thought up to make more money- honestly it is very important to the overall health of your dog.
So don't forget to test your dog this spring and give the preventative. This is one disease that is easy to avoid and difficult to treat. Don't leave it to chance, test and prevent today.