Heartworm Disease

Let’s talk about heartworm disease?

#petcare #savedogs #heartworm
Heartworm Disease

Did you know that more than a million pets in the U.S. suffers from heartworm disease? According to FDA, this disease is most common along the Atlantic coast and some say its rapid spread is triggered by drier-than-usual weather and extreme weather conditions. This is a serious, life-threatening disease, which can be fatal if left untreated. The good news is you can do a lot to prevent it.

What is heatworm disease?

Before discussing the disease in more details, it’s important to understand what heartworm is and why it is dangerous for dogs. The heartworm is a parasite that lives mainly in the heart and lung arteries of the dog, but can be found in the bloodstream and other organs as well. These spaghetti-like creatures can grow up to a foot long! Shocking, isn’t it? Adult worms release microlarvae, which can circulate in large numbers in the bloodstream. When the mosquito bites an infected dog, the larvae are transferred to the mosquito along with the blood. Then, this mosquito, as an intermediate host, will release the larvae into another dog’s bloodstream and various organs where they began to grow and grow. Eventually they find a way into the heart and arteries of the lung. After the first mosquito bite, the whole life cycle lasts about 6-7 months, but adult heartworms can live up to 7 years. The problem is that even dead heartworms can cause serious health issues, so it’s very important to prevent infection as early as possible.

What are the main symptoms and what are treatment options?

An infected dog may show no symptoms in the initial stages or in a milder form of the infection. And this is why heartworm disease is so dangerous: it’s almost impossible to detect it in the early stages. If symptoms are already present, huge number of worms may be circulating in the bloodstream and immediate veterinary treatment is required to save the dog’s life.

In stage 2, mild but persistent coughing may be noticed and the dog may seem exhausted. In the following stage, the most common symptoms are: loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath and fainting. In stage 4, there are way too many worms in the bloodstream, and they can block arteries.

Treatment of heartworm diesase is a complicated procedure and almost always requires hospitalisation. The aim of the treatment is to kill the adult worms. The problem is that unlike intestinal worms that can be eliminated through the intestines with feces, heartworms cannot leave the veins and organs so easily, and the mass death of them can cause severe conditions like respiratory failure and artery blockage. If the infection is severe, part of the worms must be surgically removed, and medication is also required for long term success.

How can you prevent it?

Prevention is of key importance when it comes to heartworm disease. Before giving your dog any preventative medication, make sure to visit the vet and ask for a blood test to find out if your dog is infected. After making sure your dog is not infected, you can start prevention with a medicine described by the vet. Please follow the vet’s guidelines regarding the type of medicine and the dosage. Medicine stops the larvae from developing, but – especially if you are living in an area where there are many mosquitos – you can supplement medication with natural herbs to keep mosquitoes away, or at least to make your dog a less attractive ’mosquito target’. For instance, essential oils – applied externally – like lavender or lemonbalm are excellent natural mosquite repellents and they are safe for dogs.



Please, keep in mind that this information is for general pet health and well-being only and NOT a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult your vet about an appropriate diet, especially if your pet has health issues.


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