Fixing a Broken Heart: What to do if Your Dog has Heartworms




            As a responsible dog owner, you want to make sure that your dog is always happy and healthy. You keep your dog updated with their shots and vaccinations, you give them the best dog food possible, and you even give them supplemental vitamins! In spite of all your efforts, you suddenly notice that your furry companion has been lethargic, eating poorly, and been showing signs of discomfort. After rushing your dog to the vet, you get a diagnosis: your dog has heartworms. Here’s everything you need to know about the disease, the symptoms you need to look for, and what kind of dog heartworm treatment you need to get in order to restore your canine to their happy and healthy self.

What is Canine Heartworm?

                        A dog can contract the disease when they are bitten by female mosquitoes who are infected by the immature stages of the parasite, called microfilariae. Mosquitoes serve as intermediate hosts as the parasites need them to complete their life cycle.
Once a dog is bitten by a mosquito with heartworm, the infective larvae enter the dog’s body through the bite as the mosquito draws out blood and deposits their saliva inside the dog in turn. The larvae then travel through the dog’s bloodstream and rest in the heart and blood vessels where they mature into adults and start reproducing. A dog with a severe heartworm infection can have as many as 300 adult heartworms!
            Canine heartworm disease can occur anywhere in the world but are more common in humid places where there is constant rainfall. In the United States, the highest reported cases of heartwormdisease occur near the Gulf of Mexico as well as near the Atlantic Ocean coastline.

Signs and Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs

            Dogs who have contracted heartworm disease fall into four categories, ranked by the severity of
the symptoms.


Class I 

At this stage, the dog might not even show any outward signs or symptoms of being infected by heartworms. They are still active, alert, and eating normally. Most dogs are asymptomatic, but some may show mild signs such as occasional coughing. During this stage, the heartworm infestation might have just started and have not reached the adult stage or have not started reproducing.


Class II



        Dogs who are classified under Class II stage show moderate symptoms, such as mild lethargy or being quick to tire after physical exercise. They may also be coughing more noticeably. During this stage, the worms will have already matured in the heart and blood vessels, and are starting to reproduce.

   

Class III



            At this stage of infection, the symptoms are more severe and noticeable. Dogs are already experiencing dramatic weight loss, labored breathing, an unwillingness to eat, and extreme lethargy. They may also be showing a pot-bellied appearance which is the result of fluid buildup in the abdomen. The adult heartworms have already reproduced and are starting to grow in numbers that are resulting in adverse effects on your dog.

Class IV



            During this stage, your dog has already developed a condition known as caval syndrome, where the presence of the heartworms is blocking the flood of blood into the heart.
The disease can no longer be treated unless by surgery to remove the heartworms, and treatment is aimed at comfort rather than removal of the heartworm. At this stage, the prognosis is poor and the condition can be fatal.

What do I Do if my Dog Has Heartworms?



            If you suspect that your dog has heartworms or your dog is already showing the aforementioned symptoms, you should bring your dog to the vet immediately to get them screened for the disease. The vet will run a blood test that will determine the presence of microfilariae in the bloodstream. They might also run a second test to confirm that the first antigen test was truly positive.
            Once your vet has determined that your dog has heartworms and what stage the disease has progressed, they will then recommend the proper dog heartworm treatment that your dog needs. The treatment for heartworm is complex, long, and expensive, with your dog needing lots of rest, supplemental fluids, or even additional medicine to kill the heartworm.


How to Prevent Canine Heartworm


           In the case of canine heartworm, the old adage of prevention being better than the cure is completely true. You should take the time and effort to prevent heartworm by being aware of your dog’s environment and their schedule in taking preventive medicine. Luckily, you will be able to find heartworm treatment medicine in most vet offices and reputable pet shops. You can even find it on trusted online shops that sell pet vet supplies. They come in a chewable form that you can give your dog as a treat. However, you need to give them the treat monthly on a regular schedule to ensure that your dog is completely protected against heartworms. 
Fixing a Broken Heart: What to do if Your Dog has Heartworms Fixing a Broken Heart: What to do if Your Dog has Heartworms Reviewed by Dr_Suranjan_Sarkar on August 31, 2019 Rating: 5

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