Protect Their Heart And Yours: Heartworm in Dogs
It’s a known fact that heartworm is, quite literally, heartbreaking. Luckily, this deadly disease is easily avoidable with proper preventative care. One little pill or topical a month can save your dog a whole lot of pain and solitary confinement and save you lots of money and heartbreak.
How do dogs get heartworm?
Like many other dangerous pet parasites, heartworm is carried by mosquitos. A single mosquito bite can infect your dog – which makes Austin’s hot, wet climate particularly dangerous for dogs.
What is heartworm?
As its name suggests, heartworm is a parasite that infects the internal organs of your pet. When a mosquito carrying heartworm bites a pet, miniscule larvae can be deposited into the bloodstream. After six months, these larvae mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and usually lodge themselves into your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels.
What animals can get heartworm?
Dogs, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes and occasionally cats.
Can my dog get heartworm from other dogs?
Technically no, however any animal infected with heartworm could potentially pass it along to a mosquito, which could infect other animals. Regardless of whether your pet is an indoor or outdoor pet, or lives in a warm region or a cold one, your pet has a chance of getting heartworm.
What are the symptoms of heartworm?
One of the worst parts of heartworm disease is the fact that there are little to no symptoms. Early heartworm can have no symptoms but as the disease progresses, mild symptoms such as a persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss and a swollen belly from excess fluid can occur. If the disease involves multiple worms, cardiac blockage can occur resulting in caval syndrome: labored breathing, pale gums, bloody urine and cardiovascular collapse. Very few dogs survive caval syndrome even with surgery.
Because the symptoms can be difficult to detect it is crucial that you take your dog into your vet for heartworm detection regularly.
How can you treat heartworm?
The good news is that heartworm is treatable. The bad news is that it is expensive and can be very difficult for both you and the pup.
Typical heartworm treatment is as follows:
Diagnosis can be both costly and extensive. To determine whether your pup has heartworm and how bad the infection is, diagnosis usually requires several x-rays, blood work and several tests. Once the vet determines how severe the heartworm is they will be able to determine the proper treatment. Treatment usually involves several painful, arsenic based injections to treat the worms and larvae followed by an intensive one to three month period in which the dog may have very limited physical activity and even surgery.
How do you prevent heartworm?
Annual check ups and monthly preventive care are the best ways to avoid heartworm. Preventative care comes in both topical and pill form. However, if you miss a dose, you lower the effectiveness of prevention. Thus, we recommend regular parasite checks just in case.
When should my dog be tested for heartworm?
All dogs should be test annually during their routine checkup and maintain preventative care as prescribed by their vet.
To coincide with Austin’s rainy season, ZippiVet is offering free heartworm checks for Austin pet owners. Visit our offer page and schedule an appointment to make sure your dog is ready to enjoy an Austin summer!