Heartworms In Dogs: Symptoms And Treatments

Heartworms in dogs. Dirofilariasis, or heartworm disease, is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition. It is caused by a very lethal blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. We find adult heartworms in infected dogs’ hearts, pulmonary arteries, and other big blood vessels. It can also detect worms in different sections of the circulatory system on rare occasions. Female mature heartworms range from 6 to 14 inches (15 to 36 cm) and are 1/8 inch broad (3 mm). Males and females are roughly equal in size. When a dog’s diagnosed, he or she may have 300 worms.

Heartworms can survive for up to five years as adults. Females generate millions of progeny called microfilariae during this period. These microfilariae primarily live in the bloodstream’s tiny channels.

How heartworm in dogs spreads?

They transmit the worms via a mosquito bite. The dog is the definitive host, which means the worms grow up, mate, and create offspring while living within the dog. The mosquito serves as an intermediate host, so the worms spend a brief length of time inside the mosquito before becoming infective (able to cause heartworm disease). We term the adults of the worms “heartworms” because they dwell in an infected animal’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Heartworm illness is most common in dogs in the United States along the Gulf coasts and Atlantic, starting from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey and along the south/north bank of the Mississippi River. However, it has reported in all 50 states.

How is a dog’s heartworm status determined?

A veterinarian will use blood tests to check for heartworms in a dog. Antigen tests detect specific heartworm proteins secreted into the dog’s bloodstream by adult female heartworms. Antigen tests can reveal infections with one or more adult female heartworms in most cases. The heartworm proteins in a dog’s bloodstream five months after an infected mosquito has bitten it.

Another test detects microfilariae in a dog’s circulation. Microfilariae in the bloodstream show adult heartworm infection (because only adult heartworms can mate and produce microfilariae). It can remain in a dog’s circulation up to 6 months after an infected mosquito has bitten it (because it takes about six months for the heartworms to develop from larvae into adults).

Symptoms And Signs of Heartworm In Dogs?

Not all dogs show signs of illness. While your veterinarian’s blood tests are the only way to confirm a heartworm disease diagnosis in dogs, here are five warning symptoms in dogs with heartworm illness:

  1. Persistent Mild Cough

In dogs with heartworm illness, a persistent, dry cough is a common symptom. The cough caused by heartworm illness can be one of the first symptoms you notice in a canine companion who appears to be in good health.

  1. Laziness and lethargy

In dogs with heartworm illness, lethargy and aversion to activity are also common symptoms. It could show heartworm disease if your pet loses interest in going for walks or becomes tired after being active.

  1. Loss of weight

Some dogs lose weight because of a diminished appetite.

  1. Belly  Swelling

Heartworm disease can lead to heart failure as it advances. In addition, your dog’s tummy may appear bloated as a result of fluid in the abdomen.

  1. Breathing Problems

In the most severe cases, dogs might develop more serious respiratory problems, such as rapid breathing and coughing.

Treatment of heartworm disease in dogs?

Melarsomine dihydrochloride (trade names Immiticide and Diroban) is an arsenic-containing medication licensed by the FDA to treat adult heartworms in dogs. It’s used to treat dogs in regular class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease. It’s delivered as a deep injection into the back muscles.

Heartworms in dogs is difficult on your pet and the owner’s wallet. Treatment may be harmful to the dog’s health and may cause serious problems, such as life-threatening blood clots in the lungs. In addition, because many visits to the veterinarian, blood tests, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections are required, treatment is costly. 

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