What Do Heartworms Do to Dogs?
As a caregiver, your dog’s health is your primary concern. Understandably, you may be worried about the risk of heartworms. In this in-depth analysis, we’ll explore the effects of heartworms on dogs, how to prevent them, and what treatments are available.
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are parasites that can infest your dog’s heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. They are spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
- The heartworm lifecycle begins when an infected mosquito bites a dog and deposits heartworm larvae onto the skin.
- These larvae then migrate into the dog’s bloodstream, where they grow and mature into adult worms over a period of about six months.
This infestation can lead to severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs, and even death.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
It’s important to note that the signs of heartworm disease may not be evident in the early stages. As the worms grow and multiply, however, you may start to notice some of the following symptoms in your dog:
- A mild, persistent cough
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
As the disease progresses, your dog may face more severe complications, such as heart failure and the expansion of the abdomen due to excess fluid in the body.
How to Prevent Heartworm Disease
Prevention is always better than cure, and this is particularly true when it comes to heartworm disease. Here are some steps you can take to protect your dog:
Regular heartworm prevention medication: Most vets recommend year-round heartworm prevention. There are several options available, including monthly tablets, topical medicines, and injections.
Routine testing: Annual testing for heartworms can help catch the disease early and increase the chances of successful treatment.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, don’t lose hope. Several treatment options can help your dog recover, but remember, it’s a slow process. The goal is to kill all adult and immature worms without harming your dog. Treatment usually involves:
- A series of injections
- Strict rest during treatment and recovery
- Ongoing heartworm prevention to stop further infestations
|Stage of Heartworm Disease||Treatment Approach|
|Mild||Injections + Rest|
|Moderate||Injections + Rest + Medications for symptoms|
|Severe||Injections + Rest + Medications + Surgery if needed|
Q: Can humans get heartworms from dogs?
A: No. Heartworms are species-specific and cannot be transmitted from dogs to humans.
Q: How long does it take for a dog to show signs of heartworms?
A: It usually takes about six months from the time of infection for symptoms to appear.
Q: Can heartworms be prevented?
A: Yes. Regular administration of preventive medication and routine testing are key in preventing heartworms.