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As any responsible dog owner, you probably already know how dangerous heartworms can be for your pooch. It’s best to take preventive measures, as it can be easily contracted – either directly from a mosquito bite or transferred from another dog.Even though early signs of infection hardly ever show, your dog may show signs of premature aging, like greying of the coat near the forelegs and muzzle. They may also grow to be abnormally lethargic. As the infection progresses, they may develop a persistent, dry cough. This dry cough can be a result of any of the three causes – bronchitis caused due to dying worms trapped in the lungs, the damaged heart which is enlarged blocking the wind pipe, fluid accommodation because of heart failure.Finally, the most obvious symptom shows, which is bloating of the dog’s stomach. This is a result of enlargement of the liver and fluid accommodation in the stomach. The heart, along with the pulmonary arteries are also enlarged because of the blockage caused by all the worms.How to treat heartworms
If your dog develops heartworms, it is imperative that they immediately receive medical treatment. If not, it can lead to serious health complications and even death. Here are some of the treatment options available to you.
- MedicationUsually, your vet will recommend an antibiotics course, steroids and heartworm preventives. This is to prepare your dog for the actual treatment. Once all these courses are completed, your dog can now take the actual adult treatment. It usually lasts for about 60 days and consists of several injections that can kill the worms in your dog’s heart.Only one drug called melarsomine is administered to kill the juvenile heartworms, and prednisone and doxycycline are administered to reduce any chance of side effects that could be dangerous.On the days that your dog receives these injections, he will be made to spend a night in the hospital just as a precautionary measure. The main objective is to make sure that no undesired reaction to the treatment occurs. Your vet may even prescribe steroids for some time after the injections.
- SurgeryAnother option available is surgery. But this is only done when your dog has a serious case of heartworms and is in a life or death situation. The surgeon will operate on your dog to get rid of the worms not only from the heart, but also the vessels in the lungs. Your dog will have to spend a few days in the hospital after the surgery until he is completely recovered.
- Restriction of physical activityAnother measure, usually a supplementary one, is the restriction of exercises and physical activity. Make sure your dog gets enough rest if they are to recover fully and quickly.