Heartworm can be hard to identify if you’re unfamiliar with the side effects of an infestation. One morning, your pooch can seem a little extra tired or have no appetite, then the next, they’re sicker than they’ve ever been. That’s why it’s important to watch for warning signs of major health issues like heartworm before they can truly settle in.
How to tell if your dog is infected
Heartworms are parasites that live in the hearts and pulmonary arteries of infected animals, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They travel through the bloodstream, hurting arteries and other vital organs on their way to blood vessels in the lungs and heart chambers.
The entire infection can take up to six months to become full blown, with several hundred worms capable of living in one dog for five to seven years. As such, heartworm is a very serious disease and is often fatal when untreated.
The symptoms of heartworm infections can start with labored breathing, coughing, vomiting, and weight loss, with canines getting fatigued after moderate exercise. However, some dogs may not even exhibit outward signs of heartworm until the late stages, which further compounds treatment.
What can be done for prevention
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explained that, because dogs can appear healthy on the outside, it’s critical to test them annually for heartworms. While every dog is different, veterinarians typically recommend that owners have their pooches examined at the beginning of spring, when temperatures start to heat up and mosquitoes come back.
According to the FDA, there are two drugs approved for the treatment of heartworm disease in dogs: Caparsolate Sodium and Immiticide. The former is older and injected into a vein, while the latter is administered intravenously into the back muscles. The FDA also approved the use of Advantage Multi for Dogs to get rid of microfilariae in the bloodstream for canines who are positive for heartworms.
While there are products available to treat heartworm infections, prevention is the best method. For example, Heartgard Chewables can be given monthly to curb any potential for parasite infestations. Ensuring that your pooches are protected from heartworms can go a long way in helping them lead healthy lives.