Most responsible pet owners consider their pets an important part of their family, and are prepared to go to any lengths to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Ensuring that they are protected from illness is a large priority for most owners, and it is now possible to prevent your dog from developing a number of serious conditions including heartworm.
What is heartworm?
Heartworms are parasites that live in your dog’s heart and in the blood vessels of their lungs. They can grow up to 12 inches long and can reproduce once inside your pet.
How is heartworm spread?
Infestation happens as a result of a mosquito biting an infected dog. This is because when heartworms reproduce, they release larvae, known as microfilariae, into your dog’s bloodstream. A mosquito ingests the infected blood and then carries it with them. When the mosquito then bites another dog, the larvae migrates through the bite wound and into the blood stream, where it moves to the heart and blood vessels in the lungs. The entire process takes around 6 months.
Can heartworm be prevented?
Thankfully there is no need for your dog to suffer from the debilitation of heartworm disease. Prevention is available in the form of various medications which should be administered year-round (rather than just in mosquito season).
Heartworm preventatives are safe, easy and much more inexpensive when compared to the cost of treating a heartworm infestation. Your veterinarian will be pleased to advise you which heartworm preventative medications are suitable for your dog.
Why is prevention so important?
Heartworm disease is often known as something of a silent killer. This is because often symptoms do not make themselves apparent until the disease has progressed significantly and your dog is seriously ill. Long, expensive treatment programs can help to improve your dog’s condition, but ultimately, heartworm can prove to be fatal.
What are the symptoms of heartworm?
Some of the symptoms that indicate heartworm include:
An unwillingness to participate in physical activity or lethargy This is because the heartworm weakens your dog, making even the simplest tasks strenuous.
A dry cough Heartworm parasites make their way to the lungs of your dog, multiplying and making themselves at home in the surrounding veins. Coughing may make it hard for your dog to breathe, and he may faint after the smallest amount of physical exertion.
Bulging chest Fluid can accumulate in the lungs, which can make the chest appear to bulge and the ribs protrude through the chest wall.
Weight loss Your dog may experience a loss of appetite which causes him to lose weight.
Occasionally, the parasites may invade other parts of the body via the blood stream. If this happens is can cause a range of other symptoms including nosebleeds, blindness, lameness and seizures.
If the heartworm is left untreated, large numbers of the parasites can get into the heart, blocking the flow of blood through it. This can cause collapse and coma-type symptoms. If heartworm reaches this stage, death usually happens within days.
Is it possible to treat heartworm?
While it is possible to treat heartworm, the lack of symptoms displayed by most pets means that the condition has normally escalated by the time it has been diagnosed by a veterinarian. The treatment programs for heartworm infestations are complicated and expensive, and it can take months for even the strongest dogs to recover. Many dogs that do survive do so with some permanent damage to their heart or lungs.
By choosing preventative heartworm medications, you can help to protect your furry friend from this deadly disease. Speak to Dr. Bray or Dr. Casey today to discuss a program of preventative treatment.