Heartworm in Dogs: How to Keep Your Pet’s Heart Protected

If you have a dog you know you’ll do anything to keep your furry pal safe and healthy. You want him to have the best food, the best toys and treats and his own cozy dog bed to sleep in. Keeping these things aside, your dog’s health should be your number one priority and you should do regular checks to ensure everything is in order. Heartworm disease is one of the most common conditions in dogs and it can affect your pal in a variety of ways.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a very serious disease that can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs and other organs in dogs. It is an infection that can seriously affect your dog’s health and its quality of life. This disease is caused by foot-long parasite worms called Dirofilaria Immitis or generally known as heartworms.

Dogs can be natural hosts for heartworms, which means worms can live inside dogs where they mature into adults, mate and produce offsprings. So, if not treated, their number can increase and reach up to several hundred. Heartworms can be spread through mosquito bites. So, when the mosquito bites an infected animal, it ingests hundreds or more larvae babies of the heartworm. Later, these larvae mature inside the mosquito to their next life stage and become ready to infect a new dog. Then the mosquito bites the dog and it injects a large number of larvae, which at this point are vulnerable to heartworm prevention medications for dogs.

So, if your dog is protected, the larvae can be harmlessly eliminated. However, if your dog is not protected, the larvae will mature within 4 weeks and will no longer be vulnerable to heartworm tablets for dogs. They can easily migrate to the dog’s heart where they can attach and grow. That way, they slowly fill up the right chamber of the heart and trail into the vessels of the lungs. After only 6 months, the larvae start producing new larvae babies, which is the start of a new cycle. That is why it is very important to start giving your furry pal heartworm tablets for dogs to prevent this nasty infection.

In Australia, heartworm disease is becoming a huge health problem for dogs. Although in the past it was mainly a problem in tropical and subtropical coastal regions, today it has spread to more southern areas as well. This disease is more prevalent in areas with a warmer climate and a large number of mosquitoes. Some studies have shown that around 7% of foxes in the Melbourne surroundings and 9% in the Sydney surroundings have this kind of disease which can be a source of infection for city pets.

Signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

After larvae have entered the dog’s body, they grow up to 30 cm long in the heart and the arteries of the lungs. Because they can live in the bloodstream for weeks, in the early stages of the disease, your dog may not show any symptoms at all. That is why it is usually very difficult to confirm when exactly the infection occurred.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, decreased appetite, fatigue after moderate activity, weight loss and reluctance to exercise. So, as the disease progresses, your dog may develop blockages of blood flow within the heart that can increase the chances of a heart failure. Some of the symptoms may be hard breathing, dark-coloured urine and pale gums.

In this case, surgical removal of the heartworm blockage is necessary, otherwise, the chances of your dog surviving are small. Also, he may develop ascites, which is a condition in which fluid collects in spaces within the abdomen giving an appearance of a swollen belly. That being said, the earlier the disease is detected, the bigger the chances for recovery will be. Early diagnosis is of paramount importance.

In most cases, the presence of parasites can be detected through a blood test. If the blood test shows that your dog has heartworm disease, your veterinarian will use additional tests to make sure that he can safely undergo the treatment. Some of these additional tests include: radiographs to identify abnormalities in the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries, ultrasounds to show any abnormal organ shape and any worms and echocardiography to see the parasites inside the heart chambers.

The Best Treatment Is Prevention

As you can see, heartworm is a serious infection and if untreated, your dog can be at risk of being infected by potentially deadly heartworm. That is why taking the necessary precautions is essential.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent heartworm is treating your furry friend with heartworm tablets for dogs. One of the best brands on the market for preventing heartworm infections is The Heartgard. It can help protect your dog’s health by eliminating intestinal worms such as roundworms and hookworms. This kind of worms can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and stunted growth. Sometimes they can be present in puppies from birth or in most cases, can be picked up from the environment.

The main ingredients in Heartgard medicine are Ivermectin and Pyrantel which are found to be very effective in treating and preventing heartworm infections. You can find them in tablet or in chewable forms. Heartworm meds for dogs that contain Ivermecin and Pylantel can be safely used by all breeds of dogs. Also, they can be even safe for stud dogs and breeding bitches. Even though some medicines are not recommended for puppies younger than one year, this medicine can be safely used for puppies six weeks and older. Another advantage of using heartworm prevention medications for dogs is that some of them come in a great-tasting real beef that dogs love.

Apart from Heartgard medicines, there are also other popular solutions such as Valuheart, Milbemax, Interceptor, Sentinel, Nuheart and others. These medications are given once a month, year-round. However, before investing in any, you should consult with your veterinarian about which one best fits your dog’s need.

Other products that can be used as a prevention against heartworm disease are FDA- approved mosquito repellants. It is advisable to use repellants and medications together for a better effect. Furthermore, you can try to prevent your dog from being infected with heartworm disease by installing mosquito traps and the most important, limit your dog’s outdoor activities at dawn and dusk because that is the mosquitos’ prime feeding time. In Australia, it is recommended to use heartworm preventative medicines year-round.

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