Detecting heartworm infection early generally allows for faster and more effective response to treatment. While heartworm is both treatable and preventable, it is a serious and deadly disease that shows no signs in its early stage. Testing can ensure that your dog is heartworm free and preventives are working. Preventives are nearly 100% effective when administered properly.
What are the symptoms of heartworms in a dog?
Most dogs won’t show any sign of the infection during the early stages, making routine testing and preventives very important. Potential signs to watch for as the disease progresses include: coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, weight loss, and later in the disease temporary loss of consciousness, fluid build-up in the abdominal area, head swelling, and death.
How do dogs get heartworm?
Larvae are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito carrying the infective stage of heartworm. These larvae mature into adult worms and migrate throughout the body, eventually living in the arteries of the lungs and the right side of the heart.
What are the treatment options for heartworms?
If your dog tests positive for heartworm, a treatment protocol will be made by your veterinarian. Oral medications (antibiotics and steroids) are started followed by anti-parasitic intramuscular injections of a drug known as Immiticide. The earlier an infection is detected, the better the outcome is for the dog.
Why is recovery and heartworm treatment challenging?
While the dog is receiving treatment, the parasitic worms are being killed and breaking down in the heart and bloodstream. During this time, the dog should be kept in a restricted activity/low-stress state. This will prevent the heartworm from breaking up too quickly and potentially causing severe cardiovascular complications.