Dog owners are often reminded of the dangers of heartworms. Most dogs are medicated monthly throughout their lives in order to prevent them from becoming infected with heartworms. But what are heartworms? How does a dog become infected with heartworms? If they do become infected, how are they treated? Below we will take an in-depth look at what heartworms are and also, the cause, signs, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of heartworms.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are large parasitic worms that live in and feed off of the hearts of dogs and other animals.
How does a dog become infected?
Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. If your dog is bitten by a mosquito that is carrying the microfilariae, which is the microscopic version of the heartworm, your dog may become infected. There is no other way for your dog to become infected with this disease, it is only know to be spread through mosquito bites.
What are the signs and symptoms?
It can be difficult for you to know if your dog has heartworms. In the beginning, your dog may not show any signs or symptoms of their infection. As the disease advances, your dog may begin show some signs and symptoms of the disease. The signs may be something as simple as a cough. As the disease progresses, your dog may begin to have trouble breathing while doing some activities, like running and playing. When the infection reaches the most severe levels, your dog may faint from lack of oxygen and/or blood.
It is possible for your dog to have this disease and show no signs or symptoms.
What are the treatments for this disease?
The treatment for heartworms can only be done by a licensed veterinarian. The treatment involves injections of a medication called Immiticide, which is an arsenic-based medication. During treatment your dog will need to be confined, in order to limit its activity. Doing this should help to prevent heart and lung blockages due to the dead heartworms. Some dogs are treated on an out-patient basis, but most dogs will need to be hospitalized for treatment.
All but the most extreme cases of heartworms are usually treatable. Though it is possible for your dog to lose its life, even with treatment.
How is this disease prevented?
The prevention for this disease is as simple as a once a month chewable tablet available from any veterinarian.
If you aren’t currently giving your dog a heartworm preventive medication or you suspect that your dog may have contracted this disease, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
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