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The United States of America and several other countries of the world have reported the existence of a very serious, possibly fatal medical condition in their pets called the “Heartworm” disease.
What Causes Heartworm Disease in Dogs?
The cause behind heartworm disease is foot-long worms, called heartworms, which make a home inside the lungs, heart, and connected blood vessels in an affected animal. This leads to serious problems such as heart failure, lung disease, and irrevocable damage to various other body organs.
When a dog suffers from heartworm disease, it is infested by an organism termed Dirofilaria immitis. This is nothing but a parasitic nematode or roundworm, also commonly called the heartworm. The severity of the condition will depend on the quantity of worms in the affected dog’s body, the infestation duration, and the way in which the host reacts to the infestation.
Common Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Here are some of the symptoms that may indicate that your dog is suffering from heartworm disease:
A dry and soft cough - In heartworm disease, the parasites typically end up in the lungs and begin to multiply inside the lungs as well as the surrounding veins. Vets inform us that coughing post-exercise, followed by fainting, is among the most common signs of heartworm disease. In fact, even moderate to light exercise could result in fainting.
Extreme weight loss/anorexia - When a dog suffers from heartworm disease, even short-time physical activities like eating could become challenging and tiring chores. Hence, it is common for affected dogs to lose significant amounts of weight in heartworm disease.
Lethargy - Your pet might suddenly appear too tired and feel reluctant to go out and undertake any sort of physical activity. This is because heartworm disease causes severe weakness in dogs, making it difficult for them to perform even small tasks. Some of the other symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs include a bulging chest, nosebleeds, allergic reactions, high blood pressure, secondary pneumonia, excessive sleeping, etc.
Role of Medicine
Heartworm disease is one of the most dangerous diseases that can affect your dog. Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite, which is transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes. The worms grow up to 10 inches long in the heart and arteries and cause damage to the heart and lungs of your pet. The damage caused by these parasites can be fatal if left untreated.
There are many types of dog heartworm meds and medicines available today, but they all have the same goal: to act as a catalyst in heartworm prevention for dogs.
The most common dog heartworm medicine is Advantage Multi for Dogs. This medication contains two ingredients that kill adult worms and also treat and prevent fleas on your pet. It's important to note that this medication does not kill larvae or prevent them from developing into adults.
In addition to Advantage Multi for Dogs, there are several other products that are helpful in heartworm prevention in your pet dog. Heartgard Plus for Dogs or Frontline Plus for Dogs works by killing adult fleas but does not kill or prevent larvae from developing into adults. Heartworm pills for dogs are chewable tablet that treats and prevents roundworms in dogs as well as prevents heartworm disease.
Heartgard Plus Chewables contain ivermectin which is an ingredient found in many other heartworm meds for dogs like Interceptor Heartworm Plus Chewables, which also contains milbemycin oxime. These substances kill adult heartworms before they can cause damage or symptoms of infection such as coughing blood or difficulty breathing due to blockage of oxygen flow through blood vessels caused by larvae migrating through lungs and into the heart where they form microfilaria.
Treatment of Heartworm Disease in Dogs
If the disease becomes untreatable with heartworm medicine for dogs, then hospitalization could be a suitable option. In the initial part of the treatment, most dogs are hospitalized and are administered an adulticide formulated for killing the adult heartworms. It is possible to remove the microfilariae from the body with the help of monthly prophylaxis.
In severe cases of heartworm disease, i.e. when dogs experience thromboembolic complications (formation of a blood clot that breaks and enters the bloodstream resulting in another clotted vessel), it might be necessary to extend hospitalization. It is possible to prevent heartworm disease with the help of medication for heartworm prophylaxis, as prescribed by a vet.