Apr 04, 2022
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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