Heartworm disease is spread by the common mosquito. Once thought to be confined to the U.S.A, heartworm disease has steadily moved north and is now becoming a problem in Canada. Every dog exposed to mosquitoes is at risk.
The disease is caused by a worm that lives in the heart and adjoining blood vessels. A heavy infection of worms can kill or permanently disable your dog.
Outward signs of the disease are not usually apparent until severe damage has already been done to internal organs. Treating an existing case of heartworm disease can be expensive for you and dangerous for your pet. The economical and humane solution is to guard your dog against heartworm disease now. Before it strikes.
WHAT IS HEARTWORM?
A heartworm is a large parasitic roundworm that lives in the right side of the heart and adjacent pulmonary blood vessels. Surviving on nutrients which it steals from the dog’s bloodstream, the heartworm can grow to a length of 15-30 centimeters. In extreme infestations as many as 300 to 500 worms may be found in a single dog.
HOW CAN HEARTWORM DISEASE HARM MY DOG?
The damage caused by heartworm disease is often the result of adult worms being present in the heart. Their presence impairs the blood flow which can cause damage to the heart, lungs, and liver. An eventual build up of fluid in the lungs can impair the dogs breathing. In some cases, damage to the internal organs is so extensive that death occurs.
HOW DO MOSQUITOS SPREAD HEARTWORM?
The life cycle of the heartworm is dependant on the mosquito. Mosquitoâ€™s spread heartworm disease from infected dogs to healthy dogs. Within an affected dog, the female heartworms discharge immature baby worms (microfilariae) into the blood stream. When a mosquito bites a dog, it ingests these immature worms along with the blood meal.
Over the next 2-3 weeks, the immature worms develop into infective larvae and are transmitted to other dogs when the mosquito feeds again. Once inside the dogâ€™s tissue, the larva develops further, finally migrating to the heart where they mature and, in turn, begin producing immature worms.
One dog can easily become a reservoir of infection for a whole neighborhood. No breed is immune, every dog exposed to mosquitoes is at risk.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HEARTWORM DISEASE
Unfortunately, heartworm disease inflicts much of its damage before there are any outward signs of infection. By the time signs become evident, the disease is usually well advanced and damage to the internal organs may be irreversible. A dog with an advanced case of heartworm disease may develop one or more of the following signs:
- A chronic soft cough
- Labored breathing
- Tire easily during exercise
- Collapse due to heart failure during exercise
- General listlessne
HOW CAN I FIND OUT FOR SURE IF MY DOG HAS HEARTWORM?
Your veterinarian will conduct a simple blood test to determine whether or not your dog is infected. The procedure is painless and the results are usually available within 48 hours. If your dog is not infected, a preventive program should be started immediately. If your dog is infected, a lengthy treatment regimen could follow.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR HEARTWORM DISEASE?
Currently, most heartworm infected dogs may be successfully treated. However, the available methods are costly and potentially dangerous for the dog.
The dog will receive a series of injections to kill the adult worms. Over the next several weeks, the dog must be kept very quiet. Even minimal exercise could result in serious damage to the lungs by the dead worms. When all danger of post-treatment reactions has passed, medicine will be administered to eliminate the immature worms from the blood. The last step of a successful treatment is the implementation of a heartworm prevention program.
HOW CAN HEARTWORM DISEASE BE PREVENTED?
Heartworm disease can be prevented by putting your dog on a preventive medication program. The simple tablet dosage form will effectively eliminate any developing heartworm larvae transmitted by mosquitoes. The result is no larvae, no adult worms to create immature worms and no immature worms for mosquitoes to ingest and subsequently infect other dogs. The entire heartworm life cycle if broken.
NO PREVENTIVE PROGRAM SHOULD BE STARTED BEFORE YOUR VETERINARIAN DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOUR DOG ALREADY HAS HEARTWORM. CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN ABOUT DIAGNOSIS AND PREVENTION OF CANINE HEARTWORM DISEASE.