What Is Heartworm Disease?
(Heartworms In Dogs) Dirofilaria immitis, a blood-borne parasitic nematode (roundworm) spread by mosquitoes, causes heartworm disease in dogs.
Heartworm transmission can be transmitted by up to 30 mosquito species. Mosquitoes consume juvenile heartworm larvae, known as microfilariae, by feeding on diseased cats and dogs. The microfilariae continue to develop in the mosquito’s gut for 10 to 30 days before entering portions of the mosquito’s mouth.
When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the insect injects larvae into the dog. The larvae then mature for several months before landing in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. They grow into adult heartworms in dogs when this happens, and they can reproduce within six months following the invasion. Heartworm in dogs produces a new crop of microfilariae roughly eight months after the invasion, which will dwell in the dog’s blood for about a month. By the time this happens, the majority of dogs have developed substantial heartworm symptoms, putting their lives in jeopardy.
Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs – The Four Stages of Heartworms
There are four phases of heartworm symptoms in dogs. Individual phases are not always easily distinguishable, and some stages overlap, but the following information will help you learn about the four basic stages of heartworm infection, as well as the symptoms that come with them.
When your dog has already been infected with heartworms and the heartworms are present in the dog’s heart, the four clinical stages of heartworm begin:
- Stage 1: The initial stage of heartworm infection in dogs is usually symptom-free. Heartworms are present and settling inside the heart at this period. In stage one, however, the disease has not advanced to the point where the heartworms have produced a new generation of microfilariae and the dog’s body has produced antigens in sufficient amounts to be detected.
- Stage 2: Heartworms in dogs are characterized by moderate symptoms such as resistance to activity and a persistent cough. The heartworms have been resident in the body long enough to produce antibodies and possibly microfilariae. During this time, blood tests may be used to diagnose heartworm disease.
- Stage 3: By the third stage of heartworm infection in dogs, the disease’s symptoms will be obvious and have a significant influence on your dog’s health. Coughing and exhaustion persist after exercise, and dogs may be hesitant to exercise at all. They may also have breathing problems. Dogs may also cough up blood at this point. On x-rays, the disease is clearly visible by stage three. On x-rays, the worms in the heart and major vessels will be visible.
- Stage 4: Heartworm disease symptoms in dogs in this stage are really obvious. These symptoms are accompanied by long-term health consequences for the dog. These dogs are in critical condition. Stage 3 symptoms are present, but they are more severe. Dogs will be reluctant to exercise, will be fatigued afterward, and will cough. They’ll most likely have problems breathing as well. Abnormal sounds in the dog’s heart and lungs, as well as an enlarged liver, may disclose the disease’s impact during testing. Even with treatment, there is a considerable risk of long-term debilitation and mortality at this stage of the disease.
It’s critical to recognize that the symptoms indicated above are signs of advanced heartworm disease. Unlike drugs used to prevent heartworm infection in dogs, medications used to treat an advanced-stage heartworm infection have a higher risk of side effects, are uncomfortable for the dog and are expensive for the owner. Furthermore, while your dog heals from the infection, the treatment will necessitate a significant reduction in your dog’s typical exercise regimen.
Preventing Heartworm in Dogs:
Heartworm prevention is taken once a month in the form of a chewable tablet. Most dogs will happily accept the chewable as a reward. To ensure that your dog is sufficiently protected, the chewable should be given once a month on the same day of the month. The chewable drug has very few side effects.
Heartworm Treatments: What You Should Know
The first thing to realize is that heartworm prevention and heartworm therapy are not interchangeable terms. Preventative measures are simple to use and successful in protecting your dog against heartworm disease. For dogs who are already sick as a result of infection, treatment alternatives are available.
Obtaining a diagnosis is the first step in heartworm treatment. To determine the presence of heartworms in dogs, most veterinarians utilize a battery of tests. A blood test is the initial step in diagnosing heartworm in dogs.
In more serious cases, such as dogs with thromboembolic problems (when a blood clot breaks free and travels through the bloodstream to clog another vessel), hospitalization for a longer period of time may be required while heartworm medications are delivered. In some situations, a surgical operation to remove adult worms from the right heart and pulmonary artery via the jugular vein may be required. If the infestation contains a large number of adult worms, this approach is suggested.
Inquire with your veterinarian about heartworm treatment for dogs:
When making preventative care decisions for your dog, it is critical to talk with your veterinarian. For a variety of reasons, this is true. Many over-the-counter products are available today, ranging from ineffectual to downright harmful. Our veterinarians are skilled and qualified to assist you in making the best options for your dog’s preventive care and treatment of any health issues that arise, including parasite infections.
To diagnose or prevent heartworm in dogs, make an appointment:
Heartworm is a disease that can be easily avoided. Please make an appointment as soon as possible if your dog is not currently on a veterinarian-recommended heartworm prevention medication. There’s no need for your dog to get heartworm disease when it’s so easy to avoid.