Things You Must Know About Canine Heartworms

By February 08 | See Comments

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Protecting your dogs from deadly diseases is vital. Heartworm is the silent and invisible killer when it comes to dogs. If you have mosquitoes in your area, then your dog is at risk. Read on to know more about heartworm disease.

Where are they prevalent and how do they grow?

While they are most common on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, as well as the main body and tributaries of the Mississippi River, heartworms have been reported in all the 50 states. They are essentially a parasite that spends a portion of its life cycle in a mosquito. A single bite from a mosquito that is infected can transmit the parasite to your dog, where it will grow further. Eventually, they can grow into foot long worms that will infest the heart and lungs of your dog. A dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.

Is it transmissible through any other means?

Fortunately, cats and dogs cannot infect each other or human beings with heartworm, and they most definitely cannot get it by sniffing the feces of infected dogs or by being around them. The only method of transmission is the mosquito, which is why mosquito abatement programs are very important. You should make sure that you don't have any stagnant, standing water around your property.

What are the symptoms?

Initially, there are no symptoms. But as the worms crowd out the heart and lungs more and more, most of the dogs will develop a cough. Eventually, they will no longer be able to exercise as much as before. They will also tend to get winded more easily. If the condition is severe, you can hear abnormal lung sounds. They can also pass out from loss of blood supply to the brain and suffer from fluid retention.

Treatment tips

It can take up to six months for your dog to show any signs of infection. Therefore, annual testing is very important. If you leave it untreated, it can prove fatal. Even if it is treated in the later stages, it can be expensive and the follow-up can be quite difficult. If your dog tests positive for heartworm, restrict their exercise till the treatment is complete, which can take a few months. During this period, strenuous physical activity can be deadly for your dog's health.Even after you successfully treat the condition, your dog can be infected again. It is not like measles, where you can't get it again if you have had it once. Protection against the threat is a lifelong need.

Precautions

Test your dogs regularly to avoid infection, as well as to prevent the disease in the first place with a medication recommended by the local veterinarian. If your dog is on

proper preventative medicine

, the larva that are transmitted to them by the mosquitoes will never develop to the next stage, and it will never pose a threat to your dog's life or health.There are rumors that all-year treatment is unnecessary if you live in cold places, but that is no guarantee. While it is true that the larva will not survive below 57oF, all it takes is for the mosquito to bite another dog that is infected for the cycle to start all over again. Missing out on even a single dose of preventative medicine or even giving it late can make your dog susceptible to infection. So it is definitely not worth the risk.If you take

simple preventative measures

, you can avoid this difficult to treat, potentially fatal disease. Remember that as a pack leader, it is your job to provide protection and direction to your dog.

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