Simple steps to protect your dog from heartworm - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Simple steps to protect your dog from heartworm

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

We know how dangerous mosquito bites can be for humans, but how bad could they be for a dog?

You would think the fur on a dog would offer enough protection, but it turns out, they are still vulnerable to mosquito bites which could lead to fatal complications.

Doctor Eric Cunningham with the Live Oak Animal Hospital in Lubbock said these hot summer months and recent showers have created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and while the insects are small, their bite can lead to a dangerous and sometimes fatal disease in dogs.

He said it does not matter if your dog enjoys the indoors or the out, every dog needs to be protected from mosquitoes and the heartworm disease they may carry.

"There's a once a month beef chewable that is 100 percent effective against heartworms and it's relatively cheap. There's really no reason not to have your dog on year-round prevention. It's really important," Dr. Cunningham said.

But what if your dog does not do well with chewables or you are not sure you can remember to give your dog the medicine once a month?

"There's actually an injection as well, it's a six-month injection. There's lots of different ways you can prevent heartworms. Just talk to your veterinarian about it and he can lead you in the right direction," Dr. Cunningham said.

Both preventative measures, the chewable and the injection, cost about the same, roughly $25 to $35 depending on the size of your dog. Dr. Cunningham said prevention is much cheaper than treatment.

"Heartworm Disease is silent for a long time and you often times don't see the symptoms of it until your dog starts coughing or having trouble breathing. By that point, there's really a lot of changes that can't be reversed," Dr. Cunningham said.

So how does a bite from a mosquito turn into a fatal disease?

"It's actually injected in the bite of the mosquito into the dog where it travels to the heart and actually grows into a large worm. Some dogs can have multiple large worms living in the heart, so what this does is cause pressure problems in the heart, it causes expansion of the right side of the heart, which in turn can cause problems to the liver as well," Dr. Cunningham said.

He said prevention is the best way to handle heartworms.

"It's every bit as important as vaccinations if not more so," Dr. Cunningham said.

Dr. Cunningham said he is also seeing a lot of tick fever. He said the climate in the South Plains is creating problems for animals because ticks seem to be on the rise.

He encourages pet owners to invest in flea and tick medication as well.

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