Heartworm In Dogs: What Is Heartworm Disease? Signs And Treatment.
Heartworm in dogs is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms do not occur at an early stage and hence difficult to treat. Heartworms are caused by mosquito bites hence prevention is better than cure.
Heartworm is otherwise known as Dirofilaria Immitis, which is a parasitic roundworm. This causes a condition called dirofilariasis. Heartworm is a fatal condition. These heartworms grow up to one foot in length and live in your pet’s heart and lungs causing damage and failure of other parts of the body as well.
How Does HeartWorm Occur?
Dogs get heartworms through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes carry immature worms in their mouth and transmit them to the pet’s bloodstream when biting. This transmitted immature worm travels to the dog’s heart and starts growing. They take around six months to get mature and start multiplying inside the pet’s heart. This causes damage and inflammation of the heart, lungs and arteries.
Signs Of Heartworm:
Diagnosing early stages of heartworm in dogs is difficult. Pets will show signs only after the worms get mature and start multiplying. The common signs of infection are:
- Mild cough
- Fatigue during daily exercise
- Decreased appetite
- Shortness of breath
If there are heartworms inside the pet’s organs, they might suddenly experience cardiovascular collapse which leads to death. These signs include pale gums, coffee colored urine and heavy breathing. This condition is also called as Caval syndrome.
Heartworms can be diagnosed using blood tests, Echocardiograms, Radiographs and through ultrasound.
Treatment For Heartworm:
a. Preventing mosquito bites is a better option than the treatment of heartworm. There are also monthly pills and injections that are available for pets to prevent heartworm. Please consult with your vet before giving them any medications.
b. Once diagnosed with heartworm, provide them with lots of fluids and rest. Exercise might cause more strain to the heart and worsen the condition.
c. Surgery might have to be an option in some extreme cases of heartworm. Your veterinarian might follow the treatment protocol as suggested by The American Heartworm Society.
After treatment completion, regularly follow up with the vet for prevention medications for your pet for the rest of his life. Heartworm is a serious condition and it cannot be left untreated. If you live in a place infested with mosquitoes, talk to your vet today.