Worms are common in pets, especially among dogs. The most common types are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. These worms are intestinal parasites that can be easily treated through regular deworming. On the other hand, heartworms in dogs are an entirely different case. They are harder to detect and can cause severe illness or even be fatal if left untreated. Here are some facts about heartworms in dogs that you should know about:
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart and lungs of an infected dog. They cause heartworm disease, a fatal condition affecting over 100,000 dogs yearly in the United States alone. The infection is dangerous because the parasite’s larvae can grow up to a foot long in the lungs and even travel through the bloodstream to infect other body parts. As a result, it can be complicated to detect and treat.
Mosquitoes transmit heartworms when they bite and take blood from an infected animal. When the mosquito bites a healthy dog, it deposits some of the worm’s eggs in the bitten area. The eggs then develop into larvae and adult worms that can multiply and spread through the dog’s body and cause severe illness and even death.
Heartworms are common in some regions of the world, including the United States, Canada, and Europe. They are also present in many other parts but are usually not found in places that experience cold winters. However, they can survive freezing temperatures if they go into a state of hibernation. This means they can be found in areas without a warm, year-round climate.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
The symptoms that can be observed in dogs with heartworms vary depending on the stage of the disease. They can start to appear in as little as a few weeks after infection and continue until the death of the infected animal. In most cases, symptoms are first noticed when the adult worms begin reproducing and multiplying. Mild symptoms include occasional cough and exhaustion after moderate exercise.
As the disease progress because of the increasing presence of the worms, the symptoms become severe. The infected dog may experience persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite and weight loss, difficulty breathing, and even heart failure in some cases. If left untreated, it can lead to death.
How is heartworm disease diagnosed?
Early detection of the disease is crucial because early treatment can significantly increase the chances of a full recovery. Diagnosing heartworm disease involves checking for the presence of parasites in a sample of your dog’s blood or tissue sample. If the test is positive, further testing is needed to determine the stage of infection. Treatment can then be tailored to the specific stage and severity of the disease.
How is heartworm disease treated?
Treatment for heartworms in dogs depends on the stage of the infection. Adult worms can be killed by administering medications that kill adult worms or prevent their growth. Some medicines can kill adult worms in a single dose, while others need to be taken for weeks to kill all the worms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the adult worms and prevent them from spreading to other body parts. It is important to complete treatment to prevent the spread of disease and reduce the risk of death.
In more advanced stages of infection, it may be necessary to use a combination of medication and surgery to eliminate the worms from the body. Antibiotics may also be given to prevent the development of secondary infections. Dogs that recover from heartworm infections usually regain full health within a few months of treatment. However, some dogs may require prolonged treatment for lingering complications of the heartworm infection. In many cases, these dogs may have permanent heart problems and die prematurely if the disease is not completely eliminated.
Tips on Preventing Heartworm Disease In Your Dog
Prevention is always better than cure, especially when the disease can be fatal. Fortunately, heartworms in dogs can be prevented. Heartworm preventive treatment should start when your puppies are 6 or 8 weeks old and continue until your dog is five months old. After that, your veterinarian will retest your pet before recommending another course of treatment. Several heartworm preventive options are available today – most of them are administered in the form of oral tablets every month. However, you can also use topical products such as collar-based treatments. There is also an injectable option available for some types of dogs. Once the treatment starts, you must continue it as long as your vet recommends. All products have the same effectiveness against heartworms; It’s just a personal preference.
If you observe any of the above symptoms in your dog, it is crucial to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Heartworms in dogs are different from other parasitic worms that may infect your dog. They primarily affect the heart and lungs but can also damage other organs and lead to death. Treating heartworms in dogs is challenging and expensive. As such, it is best to ask your veterinarian about heartworm preventive treatment for your dog.