If you’re a dog parent, you understand the importance of your furry friend’s health and wellness. In order to keep them safe, this requires that you recognize the signs of any potential illness or disease.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease that affects many dogs in the United States. Heartworm is caused by foot-long worms, heartworms, that live in your dogs’s heart, lungs and blood vessels.
These intruders can cause your dog to suffer from heart failure, organ damage and lung disease.
In this article, we’re going to discuss what heartworm disease is, how it affects your dog, warning symptoms to look out for and how to protect your pup.
What is Heartworm Disease in Dogs?
Heartworm disease can affect dogs of all ages. And, according to the American Heartworm Society, dogs are a natural host for heartworms.
“This means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies.”
Heartworm disease is one that can continue to affect your pup for the rest of their life, even if the army of worms is eradicated. This could mean permanent damage to their lungs and arteries.
Therefore, prevention is the best form of protection and you should speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible to help your dog avoid catching this serious disease.
How Does a Dog Become Infected With Heartworm?
Your dog becomes infected with heartworm through the bite of a mosquito. Therefore, the risk of heartworm increases in the warmer months due to the influx of these bugs.
Heartworms are spread through these bites and once your dog is infected, the larvae develop into adult heartworms in six to seven months. These larvae live in your dog’s body and produce microfilariae that live in your dog’s blood vessels.
When a mosquito bites a dog, they may pick up some of these worms and pass it onto other dogs. These heartworms can live in your dog for 5-7 years.
If you expect that your dog is infected, you must bring them to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.
Dog Heartworm Symptoms To Look Out For
So, how do you know if your dog is infected with heartworms?
At the early stage, it’s difficult to determine if your dog is infected because they will show few to no symptoms.
Warning signs of heartworm disease include:
- Persistent cough
- Not wanting to exercise
- Fatigue after mild activity
- Weight Loss
- Lack of appetite
And, as the infection progresses, your dog may have a swollen stomach due to extra fluid in their abdomen. They may also experience heart failure due to the blockage of blood flow.
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to bring them to the veterinarian for testing. The quicker you seek treatment, the better chance your dog has of recovering.
How To Protect Your Dog From Heartworms
In order to best protect your dog from heartworm disease, they should be tested annually. This can be done during their wellness and preventive checkup.
Your veterinarian will know the best plan for testing based on their age and health history.
If your dog is on heartworm prevention medication, testing is still important to rule out potential infection. Even if your dog is on medication, they can still become infected. This is because even missing one dose of medication or administering it at the wrong time can leave your dog vulnerable to the disease.
As you can see, heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal illness. In order to keep your pet healthy and protected, you need to speak with your veterinarian about heartworm disease when they are a puppy and keep up with annual testing during their preventative care exams.
Heartworm is serious, but with diligence you can make sure that your pet is properly tested and medicated to prevent this disease.