Happy Heartworm-Free April!

Wouldn’t that be something?  If we went through this entire month and NOBODY was diagnosed with heartworm disease??  We just saw another case of heartworm disease very recently…So sad.  I know I have been on an “I hate cancer” kick lately, but as always, I am on my “I hate heartworm” kick too.  (I have quite a few kicks…)  Heartworm disease is 100% preventable, and though treatable (treatable in dogs – not so much cats and ferrets), prevention is so much less expensive and easier on the dogs’ systems.I promised to be more upbeat here at Riley and James as soon as possible!  So here goes…

Today’s monthly heartworm post is on how heartworm preventative medications work!

Science…medicine…the wonders of canine physiology…heartworm examined not as a pet stealer or dog damager, but more clinically, as a very cool (disgusting) mortal, intricate parasite.  How exciting is that??  Well, I think it is exciting…

The Medicine

All heartworm preventative medications currently on the market are a form of macrocyclic lactones, medications derived from bacteria in the Streptomyces genus.  They do not prevent heartworm infection in the strictest sense, they prevent heartworm disease – they kill the larvae (L3 and L4, “baby heartworms”) before they can mature into adult worms.(Interesting side note!  Until the late 1980’s, only daily medications were available because they were only powerful enough to kill the “L3” stage, which lasts only two or three days.)Macrocyclic lactones are neurotoxins to the heartworm larvae (L3 and L4), paralyzing their mouthparts and causing them to starve to death.  The medication needs to be repeated monthly because they kill all of the parasites that are in the pet’s system that have infected him or her in the last thirty days.  The picture that came to mind when I was trying to make it understandable was one of a rainstorm.  Bear with me…Heartworm preventatives are not umbrellas – they are windshield wipers.  Your dog is continually at risk of being bitten by a mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae (L3) – the mosquito would be the cloud and the heartworm larvae would be the raindrop…if clouds were buzzy and annoying and raindrops were potentially fatal.

The Worm

We think of heartworm preventatives as protecting our pets against heartworm disease, and they do.  But they do it more as a windshield wiper (that sweeps every thirty days) than an umbrella that is a constant barrier to infection.  Our pets are at risk of being infected by heartworm larvae – but are protected from heartworm disease that is caused by adult heartworms in the pulmonary vessels and heart.

The Disease

I think the disease should be called subcutaneous-tissue-then-pulmonary-arteries-and-if-it-is-a-really-heavy-infestation-even-right-heart-and-vena-cava-worms, but it is not.  Heartworm is too cute of a name for such a horrid disease.

That’s All I’ve Got.

If that helps you understand the pathogenesis of heartworm disease, awesome.  It helps me to be disciplined when giving heartworm preventative medication to my pets to think of it as a “windshield wiper” stopping heartworm larvae that may have already started their unholy travels to the very heart of my pets, rather than a barrier or “umbrella” that I can just put up when it is sunny and warm and just right for a heartworm attack.  If it just grosses you out, and you like being grossed out, that is good too, I suppose!

Coming Soon…More Awesome Heartworm Information of Some Sort

Let me know what other heartworm related topics you would like to cover.  Ideas…heartworm disease in cats and ferrets, treating heartworm disease, I would love a guest post from someone who has had a pet with heartworm disease, or worked in a rescue organization and dealt with heartworm disease, or any guest post with a heartworm-related story!  Let me know if you have topic ideas or would like to write a guest post here!

Today’s To Do List:
Noodle the Poodle – Wormshield tablet
Max the Cat – topical Revolution
(Joy the Puppy is on injectable Proheart 6.)

Coming Next Month…

How do injectable sustained release heartworm prevenative medications (Proheart 6 and Proheart 12) work?

Previous Happy Heartworm Free Month Posts…

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

American Heartworm Society Website

Isn’t this FUN?

 

The more that you read,The more things you will know.The more that you learn,The more places you’ll go.

-Dr. Seuss

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2 Responses to “Happy Heartworm-Free April!”

  1. Pup Fan says:

    Thanks for all of the info!

  2. admin says:

    Welcome! : )

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