Heartworm in Dogs | What is Heartworm

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Heartworm In Dogs

By Sarah’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Your veterinarian probably sends you home from your dog’s yearly check up with heartworm prevention medicine, but what is heartworm?

At one time, heartworm was confined to the southern United States but has now been reported in all 50 states included Alaska. It is a parasitic roundworm that is spread via the bite of infected mosquitos. In the wild, coyotes, foxes and wolves can be affected by and carry the disease although they cannot spread it. Dirofilaria Immitis (the scientific name for heartworm) can only be spread through mosquito bites, not through contact with an infected animal. And although we commonly treat our dogs with preventative medicine, cats and ferrets can also be infected albeit more rarely.


Heartworm Symptoms

Because heartworm in a mosquito born illness it can only be spread during the warmer months, however you may not notice any symptoms until the weather cools off as it take six months for the parasite to mature. An infected mosquito deposits larva under a dog’s skin where the larva matures before moving to the muscles of the abdomen. Again, the larva matures in the abdominal muscles this time for up to 60 days before becoming an adult roundworm and moving into the blood stream, ultimately finding their way to the heart where they do what parasites do, namely grow and reproduce. Many house hold dogs won’t exhibit symptoms of an infection, namely a cough and exhaustion after exercise due to their sedentary lifestyle, but many veterinarians do an in office test as a part of your pets yearly check up.

Heartworm Prevention

One of the reasons prevention is so important is that the treatment for heartworm is far less pleasant. If your dog is diagnosed, your vet first has to be sure your dog doesn’t have any complications that might be worsened by treatment. Also, your dog will immediately be on the equivalent of doggy bed rest, no exercise or energetic play. Then there is a multistep protocol for treating the infection with medication, but can include surgery to remove the mature worms from the heart in very extreme cases.

If you have any questions about heartworm or are worried about your pet, consult your veterinarian, as soon as possible. The earlier the infection is detected the easier it is to treat. And more importantly follow your vets prescribed prevention protocol. It is the easiest and safest way to protect your pet from heartworm.

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By |2017-11-29T16:59:33+00:00January 23rd, 2017|Blog, Pet Health and Safety|

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Owner and manager of Sarah's Pet Sitting

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