Spring is the time of year to get your family dog tested for that horrible disease, namely heartworm. What exactly is heartworm?
Heartworms enter your dog’s body through an infected mosquito. This is the only way to get heartworms and due to the fact that there is no way to tell if a mosquito has heartworms, preventatives must be used.
All 50 states have heartworms disease. It takes roughly seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms after a mosquito bite. The heartworms lodge in the lungs, heart, and tissue surrounding blood vessels and they begin to reproduce. Adult heartworms may be as long as a foot and unfortunately can live from 5-7 years. An infected dog can have as many as 250 worms.
If your dog has heartworms in the body, early infection will show no abnormal clinical signs; mild disease will produce a cough. As the disease progresses, signs of cough, exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds are the norm. If severe disease has occurred, cough, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, abnormal lung sounds, enlargement of the liver, temporary loss of consciousness and fluid in the abdomen, abnormal heart sounds and death occur.
In order to diagnose, a patient history with clinical signs, blood testing, ultrasound, angiography and in the worst case (death) an exam will then be performed.
There is success in treatment, however very costly. The best way to deal with the heartworm issue is to use a monthly preventative religiously. Applications are used throughout the year and not just in the spring and summer. Due to the fact that the necessary preventatives are prescribed with the weight of the dog in mind, a visit to your veterinarian is in order to provide the best type of heartworm medicine.