The Common Causes of Heartworm in Dogs
Heartworm or dirofilariasis is a severe and potentially fatal disease caused by Dirofilariaimmitis, a blood-borne parasite. Mature heartworms develop in the heart and nearby blood vessels in affected dogs. Very rarely, they can travel to other parts of the circulatory system. One canine may have as many as 300 worms if diagnosed. Mature heartworms can live up to 5 years, where the female reproduces millions of young microfilaria.
Common Causes of Heartworm
The common causes of heartworm in dogs are a combination of climate, the presence of microfilaria-carrying mosquitos, and one (or more) of those mosquitos biting your dog. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, these heartworm maggots gather on the dog’s coat, from where they dig deep into your dog’s skin and start growing.
Some heartworms have been found to be around a foot long and, and once inside your dog, they will start to reproduce, causing issues for the dog for many years to come, including blood circulation problems and a deep cough that the dog can’t shake off. One of the most serious issues with heartworms is that they can live in your dog for a very long time before you become aware of them. And by the time you start noticing signs of their presence, it becomes too late.
Symptoms of Heartworm:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased blood pressure
- Excess sleeping
- Secondary pneumonia
- Allergic reaction or asthmatic symptoms
- severe weight loss
- lack of energy
- deep coughing or breathing or coughing
- A swelling chest or protruding ribs
- Collapse – This is a serious case where scores of heartworms settle in the heart and result in blood flow blockage. Destruction of red blood cells and shock accompany collapse. Death usually follows within a few days.
Heartworms Treatment and Diagnosis
Blood tests are typically used to identify the level of infection by your vet. In addition to that, radiographs, electrocardiogram, and ultrasound will also be used to determine the health of your dog’s heart for treatment and also offer a visual of any present heartworms.
The treatment process will start by getting rid of any of the adult heartworms and requires a round 30 days to complete. The dead worms then get absorbed by the body. After this stage, the next treatment aims to eliminate any younger offspring and parasites. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove heartworms from the interior organs.
It is important to remember that treating heartworms will be difficult, both for the dog and the owner’s wallet, which is because treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and may result in complications, like fatal blood clots in the lungs. Furthermore, it is expensive since it calls for multiple visits to the vet, x-rays, blood work, hospitalization, and a chain of injections.
For these reasons, prevention becomes necessary. The best course of action would be to get your dog regularly checked by your vet. Most vets will do a heartworm test, and you can invest in preventative heartworm pills that will help prevent your dog from getting them in the first place. You can also make sure that there’s no still water around your house that will attract heartworm-bearing mosquitos. Furthermore, you can use a mosquito net or a mosquito-repellent topical application for your dog in times of high mosquito activity.