Most of the common worms associated with dogs are found in the gastrointestinal tract: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Although these worms are pesky and they can cause diarrhea, anemia, and other symptoms if left untreated, they can be easily treated and eliminated from your dog. If you suspect the presence of any of these worms your vet can do a simple exam to confirm their presence and treat your dog for them relatively inexpensively. Some owners worm their dogs a couple of times per year as a preventive measure.

 

Heartworms

Heartworms are different from these intestinal worms. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. The mosquito first bites an animal that is already infected with heartworms. This animal has tiny microfilariae – small, thread-like worms — in its bloodstream which the mosquito can transmit to another animal, such as your dog. Once these larvae are in your dog’s bloodstream they start to migrate toward the dog’s heart and lungs. When they are in the heart and lungs they become established and begin to grow. Adult heartworms can reach over a foot in length and live for years. A dog can host up to about 250 heartworms.

 

It takes several months from the time the dog is first infected for the heartworms to reach the lungs and heart and for them to be detected in a test by your veterinarian.

 

Where are heartworms found

In recent decades heartworms infections in dogs have been found in dogs in all 50 states. Heartworms have been found in dogs as young as a year old. Areas with higher mosquito populations are more likely to have heartworm-infected dogs, but any dog can get heartworms.

 

Symptoms

The symptoms may be barely noticeable at first, especially if the dog does not get a great deal of exercise. The heart and lungs are the organs more often affected but the liver and kidneys can also be affected. The first symptom is often a cough that becomes chronic, followed by exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds. When the disease is severe the dog may have difficulty breathing, enlargement of the liver, temporary loss of consciousness because of poor blood flow to the brain, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, abnormal heart sounds, and death.

 

Diagnosis and treatment

Your veterinarian can diagnose heartworms. There are several tests available. Most dogs can be successfully treated for the illness, especially if it is caught early. Treatment usually costs several hundred dollars depending on the method chosen and where you live. Complications can sometimes occur with heartworm treatment, especially if the dog has many adult heartworms present.

 

Heartworm prevention

By far the best, easiest, and least expensive way to keep your dog safe from heartworms is by keeping him on monthly heartworm prevention. Heartworm preventives work by killing any microfilariae which have been transmitted to your dog by mosquitoes each month – before they can do any harm. There are several different drugs used in various heartworm preventives for this purpose but they all act in the same way. Products include daily and monthly chewables as well as topical preventives that are applied to the skin. Some of these products are combined with products to kill other worms or with flea and tick medications. You should talk to your veterinarian to decide which heartworm preventive would be best for your dog.

| RSS feed for comments on this post

Comments are closed.