Heartworms in dogs can prove to be a very deadly condition. It’s highly recommended by most Veterinarians for dog owners to practice prevention where heartworms are a concern. What are heartworms in dogs, and why do they need prevention? Here we will go over what heartworms are. Why they are deadly to your dog. You will also find out why it’s crucial to have a good and working heartworm prevention plan in place.

What are Heartworms in Dogs?

Heartworms should be a concern for every dog owner. Heartworm infection usually ends up being fatal if not diagnosed early. And, treatment for heartworm infection is also risky.   Heartworm prevention is the best protection for your pet.  Your pet MUST be tested heartworm negative before starting any preventative. medications.

Heartworms in dogs are also called dirofilariasis. Dirofilariasis is caused by a blood-borne parasite called the dirofilaria immitis. Adult heartworms can be found in the heart and even other adjacent large blood vessels.

Heartworms require an infected mosquito to be the intermediate host. The female heartworm can get anywhere from 6 to 14” in length and about 1/8” wide. The male heartworm is about half the size of the female of the species. One dog can have as many as 300 worms present in its body upon being diagnosed with heartworm disease.

Adult heartworms can live for five years. A female can produce millions of offspring. This offspring is known as being microfilaria. Microfilariae can dwell in the small vessels of the bloodstream for a very long period. There are about thirty species of mosquitoes that are known to transmit heartworms to dogs.

What Are Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs?

Heartworms in dogs can affect each dog differently. Where one dog may have many symptoms, another dog may not have as many symptoms present. Nonetheless, some of the most common heartworms symptoms in dogs include the following.

  • A mild cough persistent cough
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Reluctance to do any form of exercise
  • A swollen belly
  • Weight loss
  • Heart failure can also develop as the condition progresses

Can a Dog Survive with Being Diagnosed with Heartworms?

Most dogs that get infected with heartworms are able to be treated successfully with the help of your veterinarian. There is medicine for dogs that can make the difference between having the disease and getting rid of it. Some heartworm medication for dogs is actually what some dogs take as a preventative. Depending on the stage of the heartworms, your veterinarian will suggest the best treatment for your dog.

Heartworm medicine for dogs could be a chewable tablet or injectable medication. Once heartworm disease has been diagnosed, the infection must be stopped before the heartworms can cause irreparable damage to the dog’s heart, lungs, blood vessels, liver, and kidneys. The medication that is used for treatment will kill the heartworms that are in the heart and blood vessels.  These dying heartworms also pose a risk to your pet, which is why treatment can also be dangerous. 

Heartworm disease in PA has been on the rise over the past couple of years. Pennsylvania has a wide presence of mosquitos in the spring, summer, and early fall.  Animal Medical Center of Somerset County has motivated veterinarians and caring staff ready to assist you with heartworm concerns. Call today to make an appointment for your furry friend.