Heartworm disease is a parasitic disease in dogs that they get from getting bit by an infected mosquito. The worm travels to a certain region of the heart and can cause cardiovascular problems.
Dogs traditionally catch heartworm disease from being bitten by an infected mosquito that transmits it to the dog.
Heartworm disease can most definitely be prevented. There's a variety of preventions out there that range from a monthly pill to an injection that lasts one year to a topical medication that's applied to their skin.
Some of the most common symptoms we see in canine heartworm disease are exercise intolerance, panting or coughing, and just general lethargy.
You can potentially see weight loss in canines with heartworm disease. Not all dogs with weight loss are affected by heartworms, but occasionally, especially in dogs with more advanced heartworm disease, you can see some weight loss as a result.
Some middle to very advanced stages of heartworm disease would be very labored breathing, coughing, a distended abdomen, or their belly appearing bloated. Sometimes their gums will be pale, and unconsciousness is a big sign. Some more middle to advanced symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs could be lethargy, very bad, labored breathing or coughing, pale gums, a distended abdomen, a heart murmur, or complete loss of consciousness.
If your dog is unfortunately diagnosed with heartworm disease, a treatment plan will be formulated with a veterinarian to help rid the existing infection. In the meantime, you do need to keep them calm, prevent them from running around, get them started on prevention to prevent new additional infections, and meet with the veterinarian to stabilize any symptoms that might be occurring.
Traditionally in dogs, we like to get them started on heartworm prevention at their first puppy visit. Here at Highland Park Animal Hospital, we usually get you a free sample of monthly heartworm prevention. We'll start it at around seven to eight weeks old, and then we just take it on a month-by-month basis from there.
If a dog has heartworm disease, the common test we perform is a blood sample that we take, which is submitted to a lab to see if there are heartworms present in the cardiovascular system.
Early detection and diagnosis are very important at Highland Park Animal Hospital. The reason is that the longer an infection occurs, the more likely irreparable damage is. An early diagnosis is critical to getting them treated before irreparable damage occurs.
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