Animal Health


Q & A

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We recommend our patients to be treated with a Heartworm Preventative. We regularly get asked “how does my pet “get” heartworms?” Adult heartworms in the heart lay very tiny larvae called microfilariae, which then live in the bloodstream. These microfilariae enter a mosquito when it sucks blood from an infected animal. In 2-3 weeks, the microfilariae develop into larger larvae in the mosquito and migrate to the mosquito's mouth. When the mosquito bites another animal, the larvae enter the animal's skin. And anyone that is from Texas – KNOWS WE HAVE MOSQUITOS some as big as our PeTs!


There is treatment for an animal that has heartworms, however, the best practice is prevention. Adult heartworms are killed using a drug called an adulticide that is injected into the muscle. A series of injections is given. Hospitalization is recommended after treatment. When the dog is sent home, exercise should be limited to leash walking for the duration of the treatment period, which can last from one to two months. This will decrease the risk of blocked blood flow through the lungs by dead worms. Treatment is much more expensive than prevention. The expense of treatment is affected by several factors, such as the cost of the drug, the pre-treatment tests and multiple office visits.


Left untreated, heartworm disease may cause a combination of medical problems within the same dog including dysfunction of the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys. The worms are found in the right side of the heart and in the major vessels that bring blood to and from the right chambers, where they cause inflammation and interfere with blood flow. This primarily causes pulmonary thromboembolisms (clots in the lungs) and congestive heart failure. It can also lead to liver or kidney failure. Death can be caused by one or a combination of these problems.


At RCVS, we carry several brands of Heartworm / Flea Control Prevention Products. Before starting a Heartworm Prevention, it is important that your pet be examined by your veterinarian. Heartworm prevention medication requires testing at least once a year to keep the prescription. Although all the preventions we use have good success rate, there is never a guarantee that your pet even on these medications cannot get heartworms.