As a dog owner, one of your biggest responsibilities is to keep your furry friend safe from threats that can affect its health and wellbeing. That includes diseases caused by parasites that can come from the environment, which you may not be able to control.
Heartworms are one of the worst parasites that can affect your dog’s health severely. They affect almost a million pets in the United States every year, which includes cats and ferrets too. These are some facts about heartworm infection that you must be aware of as a pet parent.
Heartworm Infection Is Deadly and Dangerous
A heartworm infestation can cause irreparable damage to your dog’s body. Heartworm larvae are so small that they can be carried by mosquitoes. However, once they start growing in your dog’s body, they can grow up to a foot long. Each heartworm is capable of reproducing several more, which can clog your dog’s heart, lungs, and cardiovascular organs, preventing their proper function.
Moreover, dead heartworms do not get flushed out of your dog’s body easily. If your dog gets infected by heartworms, the treatment can be a very lengthy, expensive, and painful process to cure it. First, the veterinary doctor will give it preventive medicine that will kill the larvae and young heartworms. In the second stage of the treatment, your dog will be given antibiotics.
The antibiotics do not kill the worms, but a bacteria called Wolbachia that helps the worms to reproduce. In the third stage, the doctor will administer a medicine called Melarsomine that will kill the adult heartworms. The vet will also give additional medication to reduce pain and inflammation caused by heartworms. The entire treatment and recovery time can vary between 4 months to a year.
Another thing to remember is that the cure will only be able to kill the heartworms and flush their dead bodies out. It will not be able to reverse the damages caused to cardiovascular organs or lungs. So if your dog is diagnosed with heartworm infection, you will have to take it to the veterinary clinic for treatment. Heartworm infection will be fatal if it is not treated on time.
Heartworm Prevention Is Easier and Cheaper Than Cure
On the other hand, preventing heartworms is much easier and cheaper. All you need to do is feed chewable tablets to your dog once every month. Heartworm prevention tablets are not very expensive and are often flavored, so you can feed them to your dog as treats. For more details visit PetCareRx.com to get not only buy pet meds but also find great information about heartworms and pet care in general.
However, remember that these medicines can kill heartworm larvae, but not adult heartworms. You must start administering heartworm preventive medications from the time your pup is seven months. You should also take it to the vet once every year for a heartworm infection checkup.
Heartworm Can Affect Dogs in All Climates
Most dog owners assume that heartworm infection is a problem in the southern states. Since heartworm larvae are spread by mosquitoes, pet parents think that the disease can exist in warmer climates.
However, it is a proven misconception because there has been evidence of mosquitoes and heartworms in colder climates as well. Therefore you must take preventive measures against heartworm infection, no matter where you live.
Symptoms Do Not Show up Immediately
The symptoms of heartworm infection do not show up immediately after your dog gets bitten by a mosquito carrying the larvae. It would be impossible for you to know that your dog has been bitten by a mosquito.
After the larvae get injected into your dog’s veins by the mosquito, it can take up to 6 months for the larvae to reach the heart or lungs of your dog, where it will start growing, which will trigger the noticeable symptoms.
The first symptoms that occur are quite subtle, and you might even overlook them. That is why you must be familiar with them so that if you notice any of them, you can take immediate action. These are some of the symptoms of heartworm infection.
- Your dog will have a soft and dry cough
- It will lack energy and feel reluctant to go for a walk or run
- Your dog might cough or feel faint after running
- It could have a very fast heartbeat
- Persistent lethargic behavior
- Unnatural weight-loss and reluctance to eat
Remember that heartworm infection is not limited to these symptoms only.
Heartworms Can Affect Your Pet’s Health Even After They Are Completely Eradicated
A serious heartworm infestation can have a lasting effect even after it’s cleared. During an infestation, hundreds of worms live inside your pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. While the worms themselves can be removed surgically or killed off using the medication, the damage they do can cause long-term health issues. This is one of the primary reasons why it’s important to prevent heartworm disease before it evolves into a serious infestation.
It takes 6 Months for Baby Heartworms to Become Adults Inside a Host Body
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos that carry the heartworm microscopic heartworm microfilaria. This microfilaria, baby heartworms in simple terms, enters your pet’s body when an infected mosquito bites your pet. From that point on, it takes around 6 months time for the microfilaria to develop into an adult reproducing heartworm. Unfortunately, modern heartworm tests can only detect heartworms after they have fully matured. That means you can get a negative result even if your pet has heartworms. This is why it’s important to get routine tests done.
So as you might have understood from this article, heartworms can be quite dangerous for your dog. But you can save your furry friend from this dangerous disease by taking the right preventive measures. Heartworm prevention can not only save your dog but also save you from a long and expensive treatment process.