Heartworm is found all over the world and here in Australia.
Where is heartworm found?
Heartworm use to be a disease only found in the northern states. As weather patterns have changed, we have seen heartworm cases spread all down the east coast over the past few years. Recent tests have shown positive tests in fox populations as close as Glenoroura and Puckapunyal (recent tests show 7% of the fox population is thought to be infected with heartworm).
How is it spread?
Heartworm is spread via mosquitoes, thus your dog doesn't need to come in contact with an infected animal to possibly contract the disease.
What can I do to protect my pet?
We recommend heartworm prevention for dogs. Clinical signs of heartworm disease are slow to develop once an animal is infected, as a result once we see symptoms the disease can be quite advanced with irreparable heart damage. Treatment for heartworm disease can itself be dangerous, expensive and life threatening so prevention is always the best option.
There are multiple products on the market to prevent heartworm. The simplest method is by giving an injection called Proheart. This is given every 12 months and can be timed with annual vaccinations. There are also monthly topical products (Advocate, Revolution) and chews (Sentinel Spectrum) that prevent heartworm and also prevent other parasites as well. We usually recommend the annual injection because it means there is no risk of infection if you happen to forget a monthly dose.
If your dog has never had heartworm prevention before, and is over 6 months of age, we need to do a heartworm test to ensure there is no current infection. This is a simple test performed in a consult from a small blood sample.
All-wormer products sold in supermarkets do cover not heartworm. Heartworm prevention should be started in puppies at 6 months of age. If you choose to use the injection, each subsequent injection can then be timed to coincide with your dog's annual health checks and vaccinations.