Heartworms are one of the most common found parasites in canine population in United States. They can be very dangerous and stop your dog’s heart from functioning, and can lead to fatal cases if left untreated. In this article, we are going to briefly talk about what they are and preventive options.
What are Heartworms?
Heartworms are parasitic diseases that can affect dogs. Though humans and cats can contract heartworms as well, dogs are much more susceptible hosts to this type of disease. The parasite is a worm that causes severe damage to the pulmonary and cardiovascular system if left untreated. The average lifespan of a heartworm is six to seven months. They live and multiply inside their host’s lungs, arteries, and eventually invade the heart where they do the most damage as adults.
How do Dogs get Heartworms?
Dogs will contract heartworms when they are bitten by mosquitos that carry the heartworm’s larvae in their saliva. The mosquito embeds the larva into the dog’s epidermis when they bite. The larvae will eventually tunnel through the dog’s skin and into the bloodstream. From there they will be carried into the organs and tissues of the body and live out their lifecycle as worms. Heartworms range in size and can grow to be as large as twelve inches long.
What are the Symptoms and Treatments?
Heartworms can live inside of a dog and not show any major symptoms for years, until the dog is infested with them. By the time symptoms are showing they may already be infested with adult sized worms, and have sustained unrepairable damage. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, nervousness, and heart failure. Immediate treatment is vital if heartworms are suspected. Veterinarians will first run a blood test to determine the severity of the infestation. If it is an extreme case, the dog may need to be treated with organic arsenical compound to kill adult parasites, in which hospitalization may be required.
Can I Prevent Heartworms?
The American Heartworm Society recommends that pet owners treat their dogs year-round with monthly preventative heartworm products prescribed by their vet. These products are very effective and safe when properly administered. You may also prevent the amount of exposure your dog has to mosquitos by draining standing water near your home. In areas that have a high mosquito population, it is best for both you and your dog to stay indoors during dusk and dawn hours.
Jesse Patterson works as a social media consultant/blog writer for Pawtini Inc. Pawtini offers wide range of dog supplies from clothing to food, treats and supplements and health items for dogs. Pawtini also features a blog about dog health and tips/tricks for pet owners across the globe.