Not only are mosquitos a pesky pest in the hot summer months, but they may be lethal to our pets. Mosquitoes can spread Heartworm all over the county, meaning one bite from an infected mosquito can result in your dog’s heartworm disease. There is little way to tell when a mosquito is sick, and signs of Heartworm sometimes take many months to show in dogs.
A parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis may be taken away by mosquitoes. These 12 to 14-inch worms will clog the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of your dog, all the while maturing and reproducing for up to seven years.
The disease is much worse than the actual result, though heartworms sound gross. When the worms begin to propagate through the body of your dog, countless types of physical harm may be incurred, varying from severe lung disease to heart failure to liver disease. How do dogs get heartworms? What is it that induces them, and how do you stop them?
Within the mosquito, the worms themselves exist for a brief amount of time, which they use to refine their virulent form. Because heartworms continue to grow inside your dog, are considered definitive host.
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While cats can contract and even die from heartworms, they are not the target species for this parasite and are considered an incidental or dead-end host. It makes the mosquito the “intermediate host.
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The Heartworm Life Cycle
The heartworms go directly to work once a mosquito bites your dog, and he becomes infected. In the bloodstream of your dog, the adult female Heartworm will release her offspring, known as microfilariae.
If your freshly infected dog gets attacked by a mosquito, certain microfilariae take up residency within the mosquito. They will become infectious larvae after approximately 10 to 14 days. Then such larvae reach the dog via the bite wound as the infected mosquito bites another dog.
In all, the contagious larvae require about six to seven months to mature into adult heartworms. Once established, these adult heartworms mate with each other, creating and completing the lifecycle with many more microfilariae.
The Four Classes Of Infestation
An infected mosquito’s sting is the only way a dog will catch heartworms. The illness is not infectious, which ensures that if your dog is only near a dog who suffers from the infection, your dog will not contract it until they are both attacked by an infected mosquito. Both pets are theoretically at risk, as long as there is one healthy heartworm dog in a household.
Would you want your closest friend to be covered as well as possible? Awareness is central! If you recognize the signs and symptoms of dog heartworms, you will take rapid steps that may save your pet.
In several situations, the severity of your dog’s disease is specifically connected to how many heartworms he has inside him. This is referred to as his “worm burden.”
Moreover, other factors include the duration of the infestation and your dog’s physical reaction to it. In dogs that are generally active, you are also more likely to notice more adverse reactions, as heartworms can impede their respiratory function and make playing more difficult for them.
Once confirming a diagnosis of heartworms, your vet can reveal which class, or stage, his heartworm disease is in.
These vary between Class 1 (the mildest symptoms) and Class 4 (most severe symptoms). Let’s review each class.
1st Class: No Symptoms
Dogs may not show any signs of a heartworm infestation at all in Class 1. Or, they might have mild and virtually undetectable symptoms.
Class 2: Symptoms of Mild to Moderate
There are some types of symptoms in dogs in Class 2, but they are not severe. After moderate activity, this could include a mild cough or fatigue.
Class 3: More Severe Symptoms
To determine the extent of internal damage, dogs with Class 3 heartworm disease will typically undergo a chest x-ray. As well as their outward appearance, symptoms can affect their internal organs.
Class 4: Most Severe Symptoms
Heartworm disease in class 4 is also referred to as Caval Syndrome. When dogs reach this point, they have such a considerable worm load that there is an obstruction of worms that stops blood flow to their hearts. This disorder is deathly, and the only way of treating it is to remove the heartworms through high-risk surgery rapidly.
Heartworm In Dogs Symptoms
Heartworm Disease is often asymptomatic, which means no early signs are present. When symptoms are seen once the disease has progressed, however, they include the following:
- Occasional Cough
- Nosebleeds and Unusual Bruising
- Reluctance to Exercise
- Sickly Appearance
- Decreased Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty Breathing
- Swollen Belly
- Protruding Chest
- Pale Gums
- Abnormal Lung Sounds
- Bloody, Dark Brown Urine
How Do Dogs Get Tested For Heartworm?
Instead of monitoring your dog at home, it’s still better to carry him to your vet’s clinic for a check. The vet can check your dog for heartworms with a quick blood examination, but your dog should perform a second test to validate the findings.
Veterinarians can administer these blood checks for all dogs still suffering from heartworms and once a year with dogs on preventative heartworm treatment. Some examinations that are typically offered to dogs with heartworm disease are:
- Complete RBCs Count
- Blood chemistry
- Chest x-rays
- Urine Test
How Often Do Dogs Get Tested For Heartworm?
For heartworm infection, both dogs should be screened regularly, and this will typically be accomplished on a regular preventive care appointment. Guidelines on checking and timing as follow:
Puppies under the age of 7 months may start heartworm protection without a heartworm test, so six months after the initial visit should be checked, six months later, and six months regularly after that to guarantee that they remain heartworm-free.
Before beginning heartworm prevention, adult dogs above seven months of age and previously not on a preventive basis must be screened. Six months and 12 months respectively, and periodically after that, they, too, ought to be checked.
You must instantly contact the vet to re-start your dog on a monthly maintenance basis and re-test your dog six months later. The explanation for re-testing is that, before the infection can be detected, heartworms must be about seven months old.
To guarantee that the preventive protocol is working, regular monitoring is essential, including though dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round. Heartworm antibiotics are beneficial, but they can also infect pets. It will leave your dog vulnerable if you skip only one dosage of a monthly prescription or offer it late.
Your dog can vomit a heartworm pill, or rub off a topical medicine, even if you provide the medication as prescribed. Heartworm preventives are incredibly powerful, though not 100% successful. You won’t realize your dog wants to care if you don’t have your dog checked.
Dog Heartworm Treatment
The care warrants hospitalization of your pet with blood tests, X-rays, and injections, though Heartworm is treatable. Melarsomine, which is delivered by injection at a veterinarian hospital, is the only medication approved for managing this disease by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Antibiotics will also be provided to help destroy a bacteria that wants to hit a trip with this parasite.
To avoid any risks, cage rest and reduced activity would be advised for a few months. Treatment is time-intensive, so if the illness is caught early, it provides the most significant treatment probability.
With only one mosquito sting, your dog will get contaminated with heartworms, so with on-board treatment, you would not have to think about this infection causing your furry buddy any issues.
Heartworm Prevention For Dogs
A dog may be healed of an infestation of adult heartworms, although the procedure is time-consuming, painful, and may be frustrating for your pet. The standard care includes hospitalization and multiple weeks of minimal activity while getting doses of adulticides from the Heartworm. Before they even begin medication, you can still recognize injury to your dog’s body.
In both cases, avoidance of Heartworm is critical for puppies. Since preventing your dog from ever being infected by a mosquito is not possible (or feasible), the only option is to avoid future heartworm larvae from completing their life cycle in the body of your pet. Such avoidance is fast and inexpensive.
Monthly or semi-annual injections with prescribed oral pills targeted at destroying larval stage heartworms help discourage dogs from getting bitten with heartworms. There are also topical skin treatments available.
Over the winter months, others believe dogs may not require safety, but it is also advised to continue security year-round to guard against an unintended loss in protection.
Additionally, for puppies, heartworm prevention defends against other pathogens, rendering it appropriate for year-round use. Consult your doctor on a personalized prevention strategy for your pet before making a decision.
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Heartworm, if detected earlier, is a treatable disease. However, care is complicated and could be unlikely at later times, in which case the doctor can help you make the correct choices for your pet’s comfort. It is recommended that your dogs undergo monthly or semi-annual oral drug medication during the year.
With flavored edible chews or topical solutions, it is inexpensive and straightforward to handle. Tell your veterinarian which choice your dog is better for.