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Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm in dogs is a deadly parasite that lives in the heart and arteries of infected animals.  It is a serious disease that can be fatal without treatment.  The good news is that prevention for your pet is simple and affordable.

heartworm in dogs

The Cause

Heartworms transfer to each animal by way of mosquitoes.  When a mosquito carries infected blood from one animal to the next, heartworm larvae enter the muscle tissue and travel to the blood vessels.   According to the ASPCA, “several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years.”  They can grow to reach twelve inches in length.  They wreak havoc as they travel through arteries and vital organs, reaching their final destination of the lungs and heart.

Since mosquitoes play a key role in the contraction of this disease, animals that live in warm, humid climates (where mosquitoes are prevalent) are more susceptible.  However, heartworm disease is widespread throughout the United States and any dog is vulnerable without the aid of preventive prescriptions.

heartworm in dogs
mosquitos play a key role in spreading heartworm in dogs

Symptoms

Animals may not display symptoms of infection immediately; rather symptoms could take months or years to surface.  Typical symptoms of heartworm in dogs are coughing, vomiting, difficulty breathing, loss of weight, and fatigue.  If your pet displays any of these signs of heartworm disease, you should contact your veterinarian.

Diagnosis

A veterinarian can diagnose heartworm disease through a series of tests such as: examination, ultrasounds, and blood tests.  It is important to have your vet test your dog for heartworm annually or before beginning a new heartworm preventative prescription.

Prevention of Heartworm in Dogs

Preventing heartworm in dogs is fairly easy. Once your pet has been tested for heartworm, your vet may prescribe a preventative chewable pill which can be administered monthly.  There are also topical products available which may be applied to the skin to prevent infection.  It is recommended that you continue to administer preventative medication to your dog throughout the year to ensure his safety, considering the medication also prevents infection from other parasites.

Treatment

If your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, there are highly successful treatments.  However, the treatment process is much more difficult than prevention.  Treatment usually involves hospitalization, as well as a series of injections into the infected dog’s muscles.  Follow up care includes restrictive exercise for several weeks, as well as preventative medication to decrease the risk of future infection.

heartworm in dogs
heartworm treatments may involve hospitalization

Advancements in heartworm prevention and treatment have come a long way in recent years.  Therefore, detecting heartworm in dogs is a fairly simple routine. It involves testing your pet yearly and administering preventative medication monthly. This process may save your pet from contracting this deadly disease.

For More Information

If you have questions about this topic or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com. View more of our articles on pets here.