What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are deadly parasites spread by mosquitoes. These worms, including their barely visible offspring, inhabit the bloodstream of infected dogs.  

Mosquitoes feed from the infected dog and transport these microscopic babies to the next dog they bite. The dog’s tissue will carry the parasites to the pulmonary artery where they will thrive into adulthood. 

In some cases, these deadly worms have been found to be over a foot long!

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is often referred to as the “Silent Infection.” Most dogs will not exhibit signs or symptoms until the disease has advanced. 

Latest statistics report almost 300,000 cases per year in the U.S. 

As these deadly parasites continue to grow and reproduce, their capacity interferes with blood flow throughout the host’s (dog’s) body. 

Some dogs have been found with over 250 of these deadly worms living throughout their bodies.

The heartworms move throughout the pulmonary artery wreaking havoc to the inside of the vessel. A dog’s immune system will try, but more than likely, will be unsuccessful in fighting off these invaders. 

External Symptoms of Heartworm

As mentioned above, dogs often will NOT exhibit signs until the disease has advanced. External symptoms may include, but not be limited to:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent cough
  • Dry cough
  • Lethargy
  • Bulging ribs
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Collapse
  • Coughing blood

Internal Symptoms of Heart Disease

Even worse, there may be underlying symptoms that you may be unaware of:

  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney and/or liver damage
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Inflammation from the immune system trying to fight off the infection (this can cause the artery to harden)

Treatment of Heartworm Disease

Although treatment of Heartworm disease can be quite difficult, it is possible. Hospitalization and/or surgery is very likely and will be costly.

If left untreated, heartworm disease can cause your dog’s death.

Prevention of Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is no joke. We all know the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Take this to heart when caring for your pet against heartworms.

Annual testing should be a significant part of your dog’s normal health care checkup.

Heartworm medications can remove the larvae before they have time to thrive and grow.

Have a chat with your veterinarian regarding prevention and the proper option for your pet. 

Medications are available in various forms. Including, monthly dosing, annual injections and combination tablets that are also effective against fleas and ticks. 

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