Heartworms in Dogs
What You need to Know
Guest Blogger: Neil Kilgore
Heartworms can be a terrifying subject for many pet owners, that leaves you hugging your dog as you try to shake off the heebie jeebies. Heartworms are a parasite that lives inside dogs, residing in their heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Adult heartworms can grow up to a foot in length and cause some extensive damage inside your dog, including lung disease, heart failure and organ damage. The worst part about heartworms? Even though they can affect cats and even humans, dogs are their preferred choice for hosts, meaning your dogs can be susceptible to them. Here’s what you need to know about heartworms in dogs.
How is it Spread?
The typical means of transference is through a mosquito bite. Baby worms circulate through the blood and when an infected dog is bitten, that blood is now traveling via mosquito. If it then bites your dog, it increases the chances of your dog becoming infected by heartworms.
What are the Symptoms?
The big problem here is that it takes quite some time for the symptoms to make themselves known. Sometimes your dog can have heartworms and you won’t even know it for quite some time. The most common symptoms are:
- Mild coughing
- Reluctance to Exercise
- Easily Fatigued
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
As the number of worms increase, these symptoms get progressively worse and lead to other issues.
What are the Chances My Dog can Become Infected?
The problem here is that all 50 states have some instances of heartworms, making it almost impossible to track down the exact factors that make your pet more or less likely to contract them. Humidity and higher instances of mosquitoes are certainly a factor but there’s much and more to consider.
What Do I need to Know about Testing?
Heartworms are a very serious disease that only get worse as time goes on. Like most other health conditions, the sooner it’s detected and dealt with, the better your dog’s chances are. Testing for heartworms, fortunately, is very simple. Vets take a small blood sample and test for the heartworm proteins which determines if your dog is sick or not.
What do I do if my Dog has Heartworms?
First, don’t panic. If you detect the heartworms early enough, there’s a very good chance that you can prevent future damage and get your dog on the path to recovery. It’s important during this time to restrict exercise, as that can cause more damage while the worms are still present. Your vet will help you come up with a plan to help kill the worms and get your dog healthy once again.
When Should I get my Dog Tested?
Annually is always the best course of action, even if your dog is on preventative medicines. This can be easy to work into routine visits and check ups and doesn’t take a lot of time.
When it comes to heartworms in dogs, catching it early is always the goal. Use monthly preventative medicines to keep your dog safe and check with your vet regularly to make sure that the medication is working. While it might seem like a hassle, your dog will thank you for it.
A QUESTION FOR YOU:
Have you had to deal with heartworm? What was that like. Did your dog recover?
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