Service dogs are an indispensable asset to individuals with various disabilities, but you have to care for them the same as any other canine companion. USA Service Dogs is here to educate you on service dog certification as well as heartworms, specifically learning to separate fact from fiction regarding the parasites.

Initial Infection

The only way for heartworms to be introduced into a dog’s system is through a single bite of a mosquito that has heartworm larvae. Despite what you may have heard, heartworms are found all across the U.S., not just in specific regions. Simply put, wherever there are mosquitos, there are more than likely going to be mosquitos infected with heartworm larvae.

Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes fewer than 10 months for the larvae to mature and move into the dog’s lungs, heart and blood vessels. Because a dog can have as many as 250 heartworms inside its body, it’s best to take preventative measures to keep an infection from happening.

Dogs Passing Heartworms to Other Dogs

If your service dog doesn’t have heartworms and comes into contact with a dog that does, your dog cannot get heartworms. The only way heartworms can be transmitted to any dog is through the bite of an infected mosquito. What’s more is an uninfected mosquito can bite an infected dog before biting an uninfected dog and still not pass on heartworms.

Heartworm Infections in Humans

While you’re considering the service dog register, you could be curious as to whether humans can become infected with heartworms from a dog that has them. While there have been limited cases of humans getting heartworms, the parasites usually die off before they have a chance to mature as much as they do inside of a dog’s organs. Heartworms are a parasite unique to certain mammals, such as cats and dogs.

Adopting a Dog With Heartworms

If you’re concerned about adopting a service dog with heartworms, know that you aren’t the first. While it’s perfectly fine to adopt a dog with heartworms, you do have to dedicate yourself to properly treating your new canine friend in order that the both of you can be happy.

Recognizing the Signs That a Dog Has Heartworms

Because it takes awhile for heartworms to mature enough to the point where you notice something might be wrong with your dog, it’s difficult to initially determine whether a dog has them. As time passes, the dog commonly has a persistent cough and has difficulty with physically strenuous activities. Should the infection progress long enough, a veterinarian might be able to hear that something is wrong by listening to the dog’s lungs. Additional symptoms include fluid retention and fainting.

Heartworm Treatment

Dogs infected with heartworms are treated with injections of a medication known as Immiticide. Before the injection, it’s best that the dog undergoes a thorough physical examination in order to determine the best treatment procedure so the heartworms are properly dealt with the first time.

Preventing Heartworms in Dogs

As mentioned above, it’s best to take the preventative approach when dealing with heartworms. What’s great about preventing heartworms in your service dog is that doing so is as easy as applying a monthly topical, administering a monthly pill or giving your dog a shot every six months. To give you a concrete idea of how much you’ll spend on heartworm prevention, it’s not unusual for a dog owner to spend anywhere from $40 to $80 a year. The reason for the drastic range is that the treatment depends on your dog’s total weight.

A dog that will register as a service dog or be adopted as a service dog should receive treatment for heartworms. Doing so is a great way to ensure a service dog and her or his handler enjoy a long and happy relationship together.