Heartworm symptoms in dogs can be difficult to spot. It is fairly easy to prevent but difficult to cure. It is only contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito. It only takes one bite from a mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae for your dog to contract the disease. There is no way for an infected dog to pass the infection onto another dog or onto humans as the infection can only be transferred through mosquitoes and unfortunately there is currently no way of detecting if a mosquito is infected. This is why prevention is so important.
How do you know if your dog has got heartworms? Heartworm symptoms in dogs are hard to spot initially but as more worms invade the heart and lungs, the dog will develop a cough. They will lack energy and do not want exercise. In extreme cases, dogs can pass out from a loss of blood to the brain.
Once a dog has been bitten, it takes seven months for the larvae to grow into adult heartworms. As you might expect from their name, they lodge in the dog’s heart and also their lungs. They then begin to reproduce. They can live for up to seven years and grow up to 12 inches. As many as 250 worms can be in a dog’s system at any one time.
Today heartworm is an increasingly common problem in dog shelters. Public shelters don’t often have the money to treat the disease. Adopting a dog with the disease is perfectly acceptable as long as you are prepared to treat the dog, as an untreated dog can die.
Treatment normally involves the use of Immiticide. It is a drug that is injected. Two to three injections will normally kill the adult heartworms nestling in the blood vessels of the heart. X-rays and other tests need to be carried out before the treatment can be made so this is an expensive process.
Once the treatment has been completed the worms will begin to die. They break into pieces which can causes blockages in the dog’s vessels. There is a period of convalescence during which your dog shouldn’t exercise. Sadly, exercise during this period has killed many dogs, so it is important to make sure your dog has enough rest.
If you destroy the heartworm in your dog, they can still have a relapse. Therefore, preventative measures are very important. There are regular pills or injections that you can give to your dog to prevent the disease from infecting your dog again. Depending on the dog’s weight, you can expect this to cost between 35 and 80 dollars.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that dog owners administer the treatment all year round, even if during the colder months. If you fail to administer the treatment for a month or two the dog could become infected. Another reason to make sure you keep administering the treatment is that many of today’s treatments also protect your dog from whipworm, roundworm and tapeworm.