Heartworms in dogs | Causes | Symptoms | Treatment
Dog heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that is a type of filarial worm, a small thread-like worm that causes dirofilariasis. These heartworms are long, skinny and sort of look like spaghetti. Since heartworms live inside the heart, they can cause the dog’s heart not to work properly and then the dog gets sick.
Heartworms occur in all breeds of dogs, be it the large or small, short-haired or long-haired, inside-dogs or outside-dogs.
Causes of heartworms in dogs
Dogs get heartworms when an infected mosquito bites them, it is impossible for an infected dog to pass heartworms to other dogs because the parasites need a mosquito to develop to the infective stage. These heartworms go through a long series of larval stages before becoming adults so when the infective mosquito bites a dog, it leaves a bite wound creating a path for infective larvae to enter their new host. When the larvae get into the dog, it continues their progression into adulthood over 6 months, infecting areas in and around the dog’s heart and lungs.
How to prevent Heartworms
Yes it’s possible to cure dog’s heartworms but the process is long and time-consuming, it requires hospitalization whereby the dog will be receiving injections and other treatments. So prevention is always better than cure. Yes, it is impossible to protect your dog from being bitten by a mosquito so the best thing to do is to prevent potential heartworms larvae from completing their life cycle in the dog’s body. The prevention is not expensive and involves semi-annual treatments of prescribed pills that manufactured to kill heartworms from before they mature and further infect the dog
Signs and symptoms of heartworms in dogs
It is really hard to tell whether a dog has adult heartworm by simply observing it, however, if you notice a cough combined with lack of energy when jogging or walking with your dog, it may be a major sign that your dog has heartworms. Below are some of the common symptoms that shoe your dog had heartworms:
- Your dog will have lower energy levels
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in breathing
- Fainting or collapsing
- Asthmatic Symptoms
These are the major symptoms that you will notice if your dog had heartworms, however, it is still advised that you see a professional to diagnose your dog before getting any kind of treatment because it is very much possible to confuse these symptoms with other ailments that may be less serious. So if you see these symptoms we have mentioned above, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with a veterinarian who will do proper tests and then find out the real cause of the dog feeling like that.
Heartworms treatments for dogs
Once your dog gets diagnosed with Heartworms using the most heartworm antigen test, the professional veterinarian will then do more diagnostic tests to confirm the findings. And once it’s confirmed that the dog has heartworms a few treatment solutions will be brought to your table, which includes:
Heartworms treatments require the use of multiple medications including several injections that will aim to kill the adult heartworms. Doxycycline and Prednisone will also be given to take orally, they help reduce the chances of unwanted side effects and they are also capable of preventing to kill the juvenile heartworms and prevent further infection.
Surgery is the best option when the Heartworms infection is severe, the surgery aims to remove the worms from the heart and vessels within the lungs.
3. Exercise Restrictions
This is done before, during and after treatment for a prolonged period of time and it is a vital part of successful treatment for Heartworms in dogs.
Below we have as well listed a few good options of heartworm medication for dogs. These medications are all prescribed by the doctor after your dog has been diagnosed with heartworms.
1. Bayer K9 Advantix II Flea, Tick and Mosquito Prevention for Large Dogs.
These are Monthly chewable tablets that protect your dog against heartworms, tapeworms, and flatworms. They are perfectly safe for dogs 6Ib and works on dogs that are 8 weeks or older.
2. Sentinel flavor tabs
These are Monthly chewable beef flavored tablets that kill fleas and flea eggs, they prevent heartworms, roundworms, hookworm and whipworm, they are safe for dogs that weigh 2 pounds and above.
3. Heartgard Plus
These are also Monthly chewable tablets made with real beef and they Prevent heartworm, roundworms, hookworms. They are Safe for puppies 6 weeks and older, they Good for use as heartworm treatment, as well as a preventative.
4. Advantage Multi
This is Spot-on treatment for fleas, intestinal parasites (round and hookworm), and heartworms and is good for dogs 3 pounds and up.
5. Tri-Heart Plus
Monthly flavored chewable tablets that prevent heartworm and is Safe for dogs that are 6 weeks and older.
Also, Monthly chewable Beef flavored tablets That Prevent heartworm, Protects against ticks and fleas and also Dislodges intestinal worms like hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm.
This medication is a monthly topical solution Which is non-greasy and quick drying, it prevents heartworm disease and also kills fleas, ear mites, scabies, and ticks.
Side effects of heartworms treatments
As with any medication side effects are also common with heartworm treatment. Many dogs experience soreness and swelling at the site of melarsomine injections (the muscles on either side of the spine). Abscesses can also form in these locations.
We advise that you talk to your veterinarian if your dog is very uncomfortable or becomes worse over time.
Severe problems that are seen after heartworm treatment in dogs are related to the sudden death of large numbers of worms. We advise that you visit the veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following side effects:
- The dog develops a cough or a preexisting cough becomes worse
- The dog has difficulty breathing or pants excessively
- The dog becomes weak or lethargic or collapses
- The dog’s appetite significantly decreases
- The dog begins to vomit or drool excessively or develops diarrhea