Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes from an infected animal to your healthy dog. The infected mosquito may also transmit infectious larvae when it bites your dog. These heartworm larvae mature into adult heartworms over a period of 6 to 7 months, leading to serious health problems and even death.
What causes heartworm in dogs?
Heartworm illness is a deadly condition that can kill pets, primarily dogs, cats, and ferrets, and cause severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death. Dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic worm, is the culprit. The worms are transmitted via a mosquito bite. The dog serves as the sole host, allowing the worms to develop into adults, reproduce, and have progeny while within the dog. The mosquito serves as an intermediary host, meaning that the worms must spend a brief period of time there before they may spread infection (able to cause heartworm disease). Because the adults of the worms reside in an infected animal’s heart, lungs, and related blood vessels, they are known as “heartworms.”
Heartworm illness has been documented in dogs in all 50 states, but it is most prevalent along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey, as well as along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries.
What are the early indications of canine heartworms?
In the United States and many other countries across the world, heartworm illness in pets is a serious and potentially fatal condition. Heartworm disease affects pets and is brought on by foot-long worms (heartworms) that reside in the heart, lungs, and blood arteries nearby. These worms cause heart failure, severe lung disease, and harm to other body parts. Dogs, cats, and ferrets are the most common animals affected by heartworm illness, but heartworms can also infect wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and, in rare cases, people. Wild animals like foxes and coyotes are major disease vectors because they frequently reside close to urban areas.
Dogs. The dog serves as a natural host for heartworms, allowing them to develop into adults, reproduce, and create offspring. Dogs have been known to have hundreds of worms in their bodies, and their numbers can grow if left untreated. Heartworm disease damages the heart, lungs, and arteries permanently and can have an impact on a dog’s health and quality of life even after the parasites have disappeared. Because of this, prevention is always the best course of action, and when treatment is required, it should be given as early in the course of the disease as feasible.
Cats. Heartworm disease in dogs and cats is significantly distinct from one another. The cat is an unusual host for heartworms because few worms in cats mature to adulthood. Heartworm-infected cats frequently have no adult worms and only one to three adult worms in their bodies. This means that heartworm sickness in cats is frequently misdiagnosed, but it’s crucial to realize that even juvenile worms can harm an animal by causing heartworm linked respiratory disease (HARD). Cats can only be protected from the effects of heartworm disease through prevention because the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be administered in cats.
How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?
The mosquito is crucial to the life cycle of the heartworm. Microfilaria, tiny baby worms produced by adult female heartworms afflicted dogs, foxes, coyotes, or wolves, circulate in the bloodstream. These tiny worms are picked up by a mosquito when it bites and drinks blood from an infected animal. Over the course of 10 to 14 days, these baby worms grow and mature into “infective stage larvae.” The infectious larvae are then left on the skin’s surface of the new host and enter through the bite wound of the infected mosquito when it bites a different dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal. The larvae take about six months to develop into adult heartworms once they have settled inside a new host. Heartworms can survive once they reach maturity for up to 2 or 3 years in cats and for 5 to 7 years in dogs. Due to the lengthy lifespan of these worms, an infected pet may develop an increasing number of worms with each mosquito season.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?
Many dogs have little or no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The likelihood that symptoms will appear increases with the length of the infection. Dogs that are active, have severe heartworm infections, or have other health issues may exhibit strong clinical indications.
A slight chronic cough, resistance to exercise, weariness after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss are all potential heartworm disease symptoms. Pets who have heartworm illness may eventually experience heart failure and a large belly because of an excess of fluid in the abdomen. Large heartworm infestations in dogs can cause sudden obstructions in the heart’s blood flow, which can result in a potentially fatal form of cardiovascular collapse. The symptoms of caval syndrome include dark crimson or coffee-colored urine, pale gums, and an abrupt beginning of difficult breathing. Few dogs survive without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm obstruction.
How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?
Even if heartworms don’t appear to be an issue in your neighborhood, there are still several things to take into account. Heartworm disease may be more prevalent in your neighborhood than you realize, or you may unintentionally take your pet to a location where heartworms are more prevalent. Each year, new areas of the nation are becoming infected with the heartworm illness. Heartworms can be carried by stray and neglected dogs as well as some wild animals including coyotes, wolves, and foxes. Heartworm illness is spread by mosquitoes carried far by the wind and by sick animals being moved to previously unaffected areas ” (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted and shipped throughout the country).
Heartworm illness has been identified in each of the 50 states, and risk variables are illogically unpredictable. Infection rates vary significantly from year to year, even within communities, due to a number of factors, including climatic fluctuations and the presence of wildlife carriers. Additionally, both indoor and outdoor pets are at risk since sick mosquitoes can enter buildings.
The American Heartworm Society advises that you as a result “consider 12: (1) Have your pet tested for heartworm every 12 months, and (2) administer heartworm preventative to your pet every month of the year.
What do I need to know about heartworm testing?
Heartworm infection is a dangerous, developing illness. The more quickly illness is discovered, the more likely it is that the animal will recover. When a dog or cat has heartworms, there are very few, if any, early symptoms of disease, so it’s crucial to check for them with a heartworm test performed by a veterinarian. The test only needs a tiny amount of blood from your pet, and it works by looking for heartworm proteins. While some vets send the samples to a diagnostic lab, others handle heartworm testing in-house. Results are acquired fast in both situations. Additional testing might be requested if your pet tests positively.
When should my dog be tested?
Dogs. Every dog should get an annual heartworm test, which is typically performed as part of a regular checkup for preventive treatment. The testing and timing recommendations are as follows:
- Although puppies under 7 months old can begin heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), they should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, again 6 months later, and then annually after that to make sure they are heartworm-free.
- Prior to beginning heartworm prevention, adult dogs over 7 months old who had not previously been on a preventive need to be tested. They must also be tested after six months, after a year, and then once a year after that.
- Dogs should be tested right after, then once more six months later, and then once more annually after that if there has been a break in prevention (one or more late or missed doses).
Even when dogs are treated year-round for heartworms, annual testing is required to make sure the preventative regimen is effective. Although heartworm medicines are quite successful, dogs can still contract the disease. A single missed dose of a monthly medication—or giving it late—can render your dog defenseless. Your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm tablet or rub off a topical medicine even if you administer it as directed. Although they are very effective, heartworm preventives are not perfect. You won’t know your dog requires treatment if you don’t get your dog tested.
What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?
The good news is that the majority of heartworm-infected dogs can be successfully treated, which is something no one wants to learn about their dog. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of a sickness, the objective is to first stabilize him before killing all adult and young worms with the least amount of negative effects possible.
What to anticipate if your dog tests positive is as follows:
- Verify the prognosis. An extra and different test should be used to confirm the diagnosis when a dog tests positive on an antigen test. Your veterinarian will want to make certain that therapy is required because the heartworm treatment regimen is both expensive and complicated.
- Limit your exercise. It could be challenging to follow this rule, especially if your dog is used to being active. However, as soon as the diagnosis is established, your dog’s typical physical activities must be limited since physical activity speeds up the rate at which the heartworms destroy the heart and lungs. Your dog should be less active the more serious the symptoms are.
- Cure your dog’s illness. It could be necessary to stabilize your dog’s condition with the appropriate therapy prior to starting the actual heartworm treatment. The procedure can take several months in severe heartworm disease cases or when a dog has another significant ailment.
- administering care. After determining that your dog is healthy and prepared for heartworm treatment, your vet will suggest a treatment plan that includes a number of steps. The American Heartworm Society gives recommendations for creating this strategy. The success rate of treatment in dogs with no or minor heartworm disease symptoms, such as coughing or exercise intolerance, is high. Although there is a greater chance of complications, more severe disease can still be successfully treated. Dogs with many worms may have little or no symptoms early in the course of the disease, and the severity of heartworm disease does not usually correlate with the severity of symptoms.
- Test (and guard against) success. Your veterinarian will do a heartworm test about 6 months following the end of the treatment to ensure that all heartworms have been eradicated. For the remainder of his life, you should give your dog heartworm prevention year-round to reduce the chance that he may get the disease once more.
Why do dogs contract heartworms but people do not?
Only mosquitoes carry the ailment, therefore your dogs, cats, and other pets cannot give you heartworms.
The majority of heartworm microfilariae perish upon skin penetration. Heartworms can’t mature and will eventually disappear even if they do find a way into your circulation.
Human heartworms are typically not a severe issue unless they result in discomfort, pain, or other obvious symptoms.
How can heartworm in dogs be avoided?
No. A commercially accessible vaccination against heartworm disease in dogs or cats is not yet available. Research scientists are considering this option, nevertheless. Currently, the only way to avoid heartworm disease is through using preventive drugs as directed by your veterinarian on a regular basis. These medicines can be taken orally once a month, topically once a month, or intravenously once or twice a year. Consult your veterinarian to find the best course of action for your pet. Numerous treatments also have the additional benefit of avoiding other parasites.
Can a dog with heartworms fully recover?
As soon as you even suspect any symptoms, you must immediately take your dog to the clinic. Even if your pet appears to be in excellent health, routine veterinary visits are still necessary. Dogs can actually fully recover from heartworm, albeit the severity of the condition has a significant impact on the result.
How much does heartworm medication cost?
Heartworm medication for dogs often costs around $1,000. However, it might vary from $500 to $1,100 or even more depending on your dog’s size, the cost of the vet visits, and the severity of the illness. The standard course of therapy involves x-rays, bloodwork to assess the level of infection, antibiotics to eradicate the parasites that dwell inside the heartworms, imimiticide, sedatives, and painkillers.
The cost of modern veterinarian treatment for dogs can be high. In most parts of the U.S., conventional heartworm treatment is equally pricey, and if your dog has heartworm illness, you can anticipate substantial vet expenditures. Missing little things like monthly heartworm medications is a big error because vet expenses may be quite pricey. Make sure you take your dog to the vet for a checkup every year. Some of the smaller costs that pet owners deal with are keeping their pet’s injections, vaccinations, and heartworm treatments up to date. However, making this modest investment now will help you avoid paying outsized bills later.
Consider getting pet insurance to pay for any of these pricey procedures that your pet might require all of their lives. Speak with your veterinarian as you weigh your alternatives for pet insurance and investigate the various, reasonably priced plans available. The following points should be remembered:
In order for you to select the veterinarian of your choice, be sure they offer an open network.
Most pet insurance policies are reimbursement plans, which means that you must first pay before receiving payment.
Pre-existing conditions are usually not covered, so you will need to find another source if you find yourself with a hefty veterinary expense and no pet insurance. Ask your veterinarian if there are any choices they may provide, such payment arrangements for vet fees or perhaps getting a second opinion. Many vets now offer CareCredit, which has unique financial conditions it negotiates with providers to give extended-month payment alternatives, if enrolled.
Think about crowdfunding to raise money for your pet’s expenses. Everyone loves their dogs and despises seeing them suffer, let’s face it. Consult with other pet lovers as more than 68% of American homes have pets. Create a Facebook campaign for your dog and invite your loved ones to participate. To assist with vet costs, several simple contributions of $5 and $10 can make a big difference. More and more dog owners are raising money for veterinary expenses through crowdfunding. There are a few crowdfunding sites specifically for pets that work in direct partnership with veterinarian service providers to ensure transparency.