If you are hearing about heartworms for the first time, then you must be a new pet parent. Don’t worry heartworms are easily preventable and can also be treated if detected early. Here you’ll learn the signs to look out for in you dog to detect a heartworm infestation. We will also let you know how to treat heartworm and answer common questions such as whether other dogs can infect yours.
What are Heartworms ?
Heartworm disease is a severe health issue caused when a parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis infects your dog’s body, particularly the lungs, heart and associated vessels. It is a serious health issue that can cause lung disease, heart failure, and even death.
These organisms develop from larvae into grown-up worms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that these parasites can live up to seven years in your dog’s body and can grow up to 4 to 6 and 10 to 12 inches for males and females, respectively.
How Dogs Get Heartworms?
Your dog will get heartworms when bitten by an infected mosquito that leaves behind microfilariae, which turn into larvae and then mature into grown-up worms. The female heartworm mate with the male heartworm, discharging offsprings into your pet’s bloodstream.
Here are six signs your dog has heartworm :
1. Persistent Cough
As mentioned earlier, parasites find their way to your dog’s lungs and begin to multiply in the lungs and veins.
Unlike a normal cough, which is strong but not frequent, a cough caused by heartworms is dry and persistent. You can notice your dog coughing after exercise due to the blockage and discomfort caused by parasites.
2. Weight Loss
As the heartworm disease spreads, your dog may find it challenging to muster sufficient energy to do even the easiest tasks. Even routine minor activities such as eating can be a daunting task for your dog leading to weight loss. The calories that do go in gets utilized by the worm population.
Sometimes your dog does not want to leave the house or no longer enjoys engaging in any physical activities. This can be a sign that your dog has heartworms. As this condition worsens, your pet finds it strenuous to participate in any physical activity.
This is because heartworm weakens your dog, causing it to feel severe bouts of lethargy.
4. Bulging Chest
Heartworm infection can cause your dog’s chest to have a bulging appearance. The chest can also bulge due to weight loss and fluid buildup caused by parasite’s presence.
5. Difficulty Breathing
Along with coughing, your dog may experience breathing problems as the worms infect their lungs and the veins.
Also, fluid buildup around the blood vessels in the lungs can make it impossible for their lungs to oxygenate the blood.
When a large number of parasites invade your dog’s heart, they cause a blockage of blood flow (vena cava syndrome), which can cause your dog to collapse.
Your dog can fall to the ground either into the lying position (complete collapse) or sitting position (hind limb collapse). Some dogs even lose consciousness after collapsing to the ground.
As the heartworms develop in your dog’s lungs and heart, your dog will begin to show very visible heartworm symptoms, which unfortunately can have far-reaching effects on your dog’s health.
How to Prevent Heartworms?
Luckily, there are more than a few medications that can be used in preventing and controlling Heartworms in Dogs. Your doctor can recommend a topical agent or an oral pill for yearlong protection.
Prevention of heartworms should be done all year, and so you should give your dog a dose even during the winter when there are no mosquitoes. With proper prevention, you won’t have to worry about heartworms, although it’s good to keep an eye out for possible signs.
Identification is the first step toward recovery. After the disease has been identified, you should focus on killing all grown-up and immature worms while trying to keep medication side effects at the minimum.
Heartworm treatment for dogs can be an expensive affair. The process is also long and challenging and can be painful for your pet. Also, full recovery isn’t guaranteed, and so you should focus on preventing the disease in the first place.
If your pet has heartworms already, you should seek the necessary treatment. But if your dog is free from heartworms, you should do everything you can to keep it that way.