Heartworm disease in dogs is a serious, often fatal condition that can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage and more. Preventing heartworm disease is easier on your pet and on your wallet than treating the advanced disease. Our Zeeland vets explain more.
Heartworm disease spreads through the bite of a mosquito and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Your dog can become a definitive host for this parasite, meaning that while living inside your pet the worms mature into adults and then mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms make their home in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected animal.
Signs of Heartworm in Dogs
Sadly, in dogs, the signs of heartworm disease don’t typically appear until the disease has progressed to more advanced stages. Once symptoms do become evident they include fatigue, swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing and weight loss.
Blood tests can be done at your vet's office to detect heartworm proteins (antigens) that are released into the animal's bloodstream. These antigens first become detectible about 5-7 months after your pooch has been infected.
Treatment for Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Prevention is critical when it comes to heartworm disease because treatment can cause serious health complications and be toxic to your dog's body. Aside from this serious consideration, treatment is can be expensive because it requires multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet can use melarsomine dihydrochloride (which is an arsenic-containing drug that kills adult heartworms) to treat your pet. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is administered by an injection into the back muscles of the dog in order to kill the parasites.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available to treat heartworm disease. These solutions can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
Preventing Heartworms In Dogs
Keeping your pup on preventative medication is the best way to prevent heartworm disease from affecting their health. Even if your pooch is already on preventive heartworm medication, it is recommended that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
Preventing heartworm from taking hold is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Additionally, a number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.