Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm in Dogs

Mar 19th 2012 @ 4:28PM Filed under: Dog Health

Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through mosquitoes. It is often hard to eliminate and can be fatal, and is more common in dogs than any other animal. The highest infection rates are found in coastal areas as mosquitoes generally live and breed near water.

Heartworm in dogs is a slow moving disease and may therefore be present for a number of months after initial infection without showing any symptoms.

Symptoms of heartworm include:

  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss

Difficulty in Treating Dogs With Heartworm

Heartworm in DogsOnce your dog has heartworm it can be difficult to treat, therefore prevention is the most important action to consider.  Nutrition, exercise and low levels of stress are vital to a dog’s healthy living, in order to keep the immune system strong and prevent infection or infestation. Your dog should be tested for heartworm annually so as to catch it early should it appear; this can be done by conducting a simple blood test. Yearlong treatment is often recommended for peace of mind and there are regular medications available to minimize the risk of heartworm. These will often be cheaper than the cost of treating your dog once heartworm is already present. As with any disease, if heartworm is caught early then it will be considerably easier to treat. Heartworm is classified in levels from one to four, and is clearly much easier to treat in its early stages.

In order to diagnosis heartworm, the following steps must be taken. These are:

  • Antigen test – A blood test is carried out for antigens secreted by female worms. False-negative results often occur and frequent tests should therefore be conducted.  If tested positive then an x-ray will be suggested.
  • X-ray – An x-ray will be conducted in order to establish the condition of the heart and the amount of lung damage caused by the heartworm.

Treatment for Heartworm in Dogs

The initial treatment for a dog with heartworm is medication in two stages which will be provided after a vet’s diagnosis: the first medication is for killing the adult worms and then the second is for killing the offspring in order to prevent any re-emergence. Before treatment can be conducted the dog must be tested for general health issues, including tests to examine its heart, liver and kidney function, in order to make sure these vital organs are in good condition.

Heartworm treatment may not be covered by your insurance unless it is one of the better policies as both prevention treatment and treatment once heartworm has been detected is a lengthy process and will cost the insurance providers a great deal of money.

Initial treatment is relatively cheap however recovery from heartworm is a lengthy process. The rest and care necessary once cured can be costly and time-consuming. Surgery is a possibility with removing the heartworms but is considered dangerous. Post-treatment rest is pivotal in allowing your animal to regain strength; exercise should therefore be limited for several weeks or so after in order to allow you dog ample time to recover.

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