Heartworm Disease – Diagnosis and Treatment

Your pet is just like a best friend, right? It’s such a sight when your canine best friend wags their tail and runs to greet you when you return home. Heartworm Disease. It should be no surprise that your favorite pet and you share some common enemies. The first of which are mosquitoes. These irritating insects might seem like little pests, but they threaten your dog more. A mosquito bite can cause your dog to have deadly heartworm disease. This article will examine all the crucial details of heartworm disease, which is the most common in dogs.

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What is Heartworm Disease?

Mosquito bites can give birth to heartworm disease in dogs. These worms may grow inside the canine body and give way to severe heart diseases, heart failure, lung diseases, and even death if not diagnosed and treated within a specific time. 

Veterinarian Wendy Mandese says that if enough worms are present in the heart and vessels, it can cause potentially life-threatening damage that eventually leads to heart failure or pulmonary hypertension.

Adult heartworms reside in the lungs and the heart, specifically the lung arteries. They undergo several stages before reaching maturity.

The Life Cycle of a Heartworm

The heartworm’s life cycle has many stages, from the infected pet to the mosquito’s bloodstream to the other uninfected dog. According to The Pet Health & Nutrition Center, heartworms develop rapidly in mosquitoes’ bodies when exposed to a temperature of 27°C or more for two weeks. Their life cycle is halted when the temperature is below 14°C.

The larvae of the heartworm, called microfilariae, are given birth by the female heartworms inside the dog’s pulmonary artery. These larvae are classified as L1. They mature into the L2 larvae once they are inside the body.

It takes them a week or two to mature into the L2 larvae, and again, it takes them 45-60 days to develop into L5 larvae. They can live in the host’s body for 5 to 7 years. They circulate in the canine’s body via the bloodstream and then spread by mosquitoes again.

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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Heartworm Disease

There are no distinct symptoms during the first 6 months of heartworm disease in dogs because that’s when the heartworms are maturing. The most prevalent symptoms of heartworm are as follows:

Early-stage symptoms

  1. Loss of weight – As the heartworm disease spreads throughout the canine’s body, it becomes increasingly difficult for the dog to carry out daily activities. These include playing around, eating, or enjoying a snack. This leads to loss of weight.
  1. Lethargy – Energy loss is a significant symptom that might indicate a heartworm disease. Your beloved pet might become lethargic and increasingly uninterested in going out for a walk or playing.
  1. Continual coughing – The heartworm infects the lungs and the heart. Thus, it should come as no surprise that a heartworm infection will cause your pet to cough and have difficulty breathing.

Middle and Late-stage symptoms 

  1. Bulging ribs and protuberant chest – The parasite results in the loss of weight and fluid buildup in your furry friend’s chest. Loss of weight leads to protruding ribs and a protruding chest.
  2. Breathing problems – The breathing problems will increase as the normal functioning of the lungs and heart hampers.
  3. Other late-stage symptoms – include heart murmur, enlargement of the liver, and abnormal sounds in the liver of the canine.

Diagnosis of Heartworm Disease

Mar Vista Animal Medical Center notes that a blood smear test is the most commonly used diagnosis method in case of heartworm infection. Medical professionals may also use antigen testing. Many also prefer to use X-rays. Modified Knott’s Test and Hematocrit tube method is also quite common.

Prevention and Cure of Heartworm Diseases in dogs

Heartworm, if affected already, is challenging to cure. Needless to say that preventive measures, if followed strictly, only can save your beloved pet all the trouble. 

  1. Prevention by medication – Many veterinary practitioners suggest year-round medicine for heartworm, like Heartgard chewable. The dosage varies according to a dog’s weight. You can find Heartgard for dogs up to 25 lbs. The active ingredients here are ivermectin and pyrantel. These prevent the growth of heartworms and roundworms inside the body, eliminating the danger or discomfort for your dog. They are readily available and are approved by all the relevant medical and pharmaceutical testing organizations.
  2. Regular checkups at the vet – Getting your furry friend checked regularly will help reduce the chances of this dangerous heartworm disease.
  3. Keeping your premises free of mosquitoes – As mentioned earlier, mosquitoes are the primary carriers of heartworm larvae. Thus, keeping your home free of mosquitoes as far as possible would be best.

Thus, heartworm disease should not be taken lightly, and preventive measures must be implemented to avoid the trouble. Proper medication and treatment are necessary to guarantee your beloved pet’s good health.

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