If a mosquito becomes infected by heartworm then bites your dog, the parasite can be transmitted and live in your dog's lungs, heart and blood vessels. Our vets in Tracy explain how heartworm in dogs is prevented and treated.
Heartworm in Dogs
Canine heartworm disease is caused by the blood-borne parasite Dirofilaria immitis, and it can be transmitted by more than 30 different species of mosquitoes to dogs across the world.
If your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, the worms will mature into adults, mate and produce offspring — all while thriving in your pet's heart. The condition can lead to organ damage, heart failure and severe lung disease.
What are signs of heartworm in dogs?
While many dogs display few or no symptoms at all during the early stages of heartworm, as the condition progresses they may display a number of symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue after even moderate activity, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite and a mild but persistent cough.
Once heartworm disease reaches its advanced stages, excess fluid in your dog's abdomen may cause his belly to become swollen. Pets may also develop heart failure.
How can my vet detect heartworm disease in my dog?
Your vet will be able to take blood tests to detect the proteins heartworm release into the bloodstream. The earliest heartworm proteins can be detected is about 5 months after your pet has become infected.
For this reason, we recommend having your dog tested annually for heartworm. Your pup should also have annual heartworm preventive treatments. Our vets in Tracy emphasize that you'll be in a far better position if you can prevent heartworm disease rather than treating it if your dog becomes infected.
What treatment options are there for heartworm?
While treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications for your pet's health and be potentially toxic for your pooch, there are options. Your vet can help you decide which are right for your pet.
Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is injected into the pet's back muscles to treat heartworms. This drug is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in pets. Alternatively, topical solutions that are FDA-approved can be applied to your pet's skin to help to kill parasites in your pet's bloodstream.
Because treatment requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, X-Rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections, treatment of heartworm disease for your pet can be very expensive.
Are there heartworm prevention medications?
Heartworm prevention medications are available from your vet. Annual blood tests to check for heartworm is recommended, even if your dog is already on preventive heartworm medication.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the disease. The prevention treatment may also protect your pet against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.