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Heartworm Disease in Dogs: Cause, Symptoms, & Treatment

displays a vet treating a pug dog with text "Heartworm Disease in Dogs: Cause, Symptoms, & Treatment"

A blog post on Heartworm Disease in Dogs and its Cause, Symptoms, & Treatment.

Heartworm disease is the leading cause of heart failure in dogs. It’s also known as “heartworm disease in dogs.” This is because affected animals often develop heart failure from stress, anxiety, or other factors related to being infected with and then carriers of the micro-organism Heartworms.

This disease is curable if caught early with appropriate treatment but can be devastating if not caught in time. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent the infection and keep your dog safe — both indoors and out. 

In this blog post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about heartworm disease in dogs, including its causes, risk factors, symptoms, treatments, and more. We’ll also discuss how heartworms can impact your dog throughout his life—from childhood through old age.‍

What is Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

heartworms in glass
Photo by mirkosajkov on Pixabay

Heartworms are heart-infecting nematodes that can survive outside the body for long periods of time. They are passed through the air or water in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. 

The main host in which heartworms reside is the dog. However, they are also believed to live in a variety of other hosts, including People Rodents, Cats, Reptiles, Some birds, and Bees. Canine heartworms can be difficult to diagnose because they often go undetected for years.

Causes of Heartworm in Dogs

life cycle of parasitic heartworm

Heartworms are parasites that are spread by certain types of mosquitoes. They are commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions. An animal must have at least two heartworms (a male and a female) in order for female heartworms to breed. The larvae (nymphs) of these mosquitoes reside in the heart and blood vessels of infected hosts. 

When a dog comes in contact with these nymphs, he’s able to pass on the infection to his canine companions. The adult mosquitoes feed on the same hosts, but they’re unable to transmit the parasite. The life cycle of the mosquito and the dog are complicated, so we’ll stick to the basics here. 

The adult female mosquito lays her eggs in the dog’s feces, grass, or water. The eggs develop into larvae (called microfilaria) within two weeks. The larvae are able to survive for two to three months inside the dog. 

These mosquitoes feed on the dog for about 10 days before mating and then laying eggs. During this time, the dog is generally sick and in need of veterinary care.

Symptoms of Heartworm in Dogs

vet is treating a dog

Heartworm in dogs is a chronic, litigious condition that may cause various symptoms. The signs and symptoms of heartworm in dogs can depend on which stage of the disease your dog is in. The most common symptoms are :

  • Labored breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss 
  • Anemia
  • Fainting Spells
  • Right Sided Chronic Heart Failure
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Rapid Heart Beat
  • listlessness and fatigue after only mild exercise
  • Some dogs reveal no symptoms at all until the late stages of infection

Signs of Heartworm:

  • Dogs Chronic: This means that the heartworms have been present for months or years. 
  • Localized: This means that the heartworms are present in just a small part of your dog’s body. 
  • Giant: This means that your dog has giant heartworms. 
  • Travelers: These are heartworms that have come to your dog from a distance.

Treatment Options for Heartworm Disease in Dogs

vet is giving injection to dog
Image by Freepik

The most common course of treatment for dogs with the disease is a series of injections of drugs called “adulticides” into the muscle. This cure has a high success rate and usually requires hospitalization.

If the heartworm is found on an EKG or ultrasound, your dog may be able to safely receive a heartworm medication. Most heartworm medications are approved by the FDA for use in dogs. 

There are also a number of blood-based treatments and anticonvulsants that can control the seizures that occur in affected dogs. These may be given along with rest and moderation of the dog’s medications. 

Diagnosis of Heartworm in Dogs

vet is taking blood sample of dog
Image by Freepik

Radiology and ultrasound can usually determine if your dog has heartworms. The following tests are usually performed to rule out other causes of your dog’s symptoms. 

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This is used to measure the overall health of your dog. 
  • Neurological Assessment – This includes a look at your dog’s brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. 
  • Biopsy of the Heart and Respiratory Systems – A biopsy is a small sample of tissue from your dog’s body to check for signs of infection. 

Tried and Tested Home Remedy for Heartworm Disease in Dogs 

The following are some of the most effective home remedies for heartworm disease. However, results will vary based on the stage of the disease your dog has and his age. It’s important to remember that all dog remedies should be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. 

  • Home Remedy 1: Give your dog heartworm medication. Heartworm medication is the most effective way to treat heartworm disease in dogs. The correct dosage is key to successful treatment. 
  • Home Remedy 2: Surround your dog with heartworm-free dogs. Spend time with your dog and make sure he’s safe with other dogs. Look for heartworm-free dogs in your area.

Conclusion

Heartworm disease is a harmful condition that can impact your dog for the rest of his life. The bacteria that causes heartworm can live for up to 10 years outside of a dog and bite one year after being removed from the host. 

If you notice that your dog’s energy has decreased, he seems ill, or he’s exhibiting any of the general symptoms described above, please contact your veterinarian immediately. It is important to get your dog checked out if you think something might be wrong, as some health problems can be very serious.

Keep in mind that heartworms can be treated with medications and preventative measures. However, if the infection is already present, it’s recommended to get your dog’s heartworm disease under control as soon as possible.

Supervet provides the best Online Pet Services in Kota where you can also consult with vets about your dog’s health and take guidance from them.

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