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All you should know about Heartworms in Dogs

  Apr 04, 2022

All you should know about Heartworms in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs. Even when treated successfully, it can have long-term consequences for your pet's health. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms. Heartworm can complete its lifecycle in a dog’s body and can even multiply, harboring hundreds of heartworms that damage their heart, lungs, and arteries. Fortunately, heartworm disease is preventable if you take proper steps and don’t want your dog to suffer from this tough stuff.

 

What are heartworms?

Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are noodle-like worms, up to 12 inches long, that can proliferate in your dog’s heart, blocking the blood flow from the heart to the lungs, leading to the destruction of RBCs, heart failure, stress on the kidneys, and liver; all in all, everything that affects your dog’s quality of life.

 

How do dogs get infected with heartworms?

 
dogs-get-infected-with-heartworms
 

Heartworms can reproduce and multiply in dogs, but where do they come from? It is transmitted by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an animal infected with heartworms, it picks up infant immature heartworms from their blood. These heartworms mature in between 10-14 days and reach an “infective stage”.Now if this mosquito bites a healthy dog, the infective larvae can be transmitted to that dog (as if mosquito bites weren't bad enough).

 

What are the signs of heartworm in dogs?

Unlike other infections, a heartworm infection may take a long time to show any external symptoms of illness. And, it is said that heartworms can live for five to seven years, giving them plenty of time to wreak havoc on your dog's system.

 

Dogs may begin to exhibit signs like coughing, exhaustion, and exercise intolerance that may be confused with other diseases or general weakness.

 

Symptoms in Early Stages

 
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale gums
 

Symptoms in Middle-Late Stages:

 
  • Congestion in lungs or liver
  • Weight loss
  • Bulging ribs
  • Bulging abdomen/belly due to fluid accumulation
  • Heart murmur due to worms affecting the heart’s function
  • Syncope where a dog will “pass out”
 

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek your vet’s attention at the earliest. In the most severe cases, like Caval’s syndrome, immediate surgery might also be needed.

 

How is heartworm disease diagnosed?

Once your dog shows symptoms of heartworms, it will require an antigen test. It detects whether a chemical secreted by adult heartworms is present in the bloodstream.

 

A microfilaria test, which looks for the larva in the blood, can be used to confirm the diagnosis.

 

How is heartworm disease treated?

Vets usually provide injections for heartworms, but they have to be administered regularly and repeatedly. A severe activity restriction is also essential, since when the worms die, they may release small fragments into the dog's heart and circulation. And we never want them to induce a blood clot or any other problems. For a few months, the dog being treated is confined and must not carry out any severe physical exertion.

 

While heartworm disease can be treated, especially when caught early, the treatment is complex, lengthy and expensive. That’s the reason that prevention of heartworm is emphasized, so that your dog doesn’t have to go through the painful treatment.

 

How should I prevent heartworms in my dog?

The only effective way to prevent heartworms is to keep your dog on year-round preventive treatment.  Some of our best recommendations for heartworm prevention are:

 
  • Heartgard Plus
  • Nuheart Generic Heartgard
  • Revolution
  • Interceptor
  • Nexgard Spectra
  • RSPCA Heartworm Tablets
 

Besides that, you can also take measures within your environment to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites.

 

It is our responsibility to save our dogs from all the possible threats. By saving them from these deadly monsters called heartworms you’ll help live your furry friend a happy and healthy life.

 

Read More: Top 8 Must-Try Flea & Tick Prevention Methods to Protect Dogs

 
All you should know about Heartworms in Dogs

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