Dirofilariasis or Heartworm Disease in Dogs

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Dirofilariasis or Heartworm disease is a severe and potentially fatal, caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dog heartworm or Dirofilaria immitis, found in the heart & adjoining large blood vessels of the infected dogs. The bites of the mosquitoes infected with the heartworm larvae spread this disease from host to host, this is the only way how the dogs get infected of this disease & there is no way to know if a mosquito is infected.

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The heartworm is a small thread-like worm, that causes Dirofilariasis. The period between the initial infection when the dog is bitten by an infected mosquito and for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms is around six to seven months. Their size increase greatly by seven months after infection i.e. female adult worm grows up to nearly 30 cm in length, and the male to 23 cm, they then camp in the heart, lungs & surrounding blood vessels. The adult worms have mated and the females begin reproducing young microfilariae. A dog can host around 250 worms in its system.

Many dogs show slight or no sign of infection in the beginning, but as more and more worms crowd the heart, lungs & adjacent blood vessels, without treatment, the signs progress to weight loss, coughing up blood, fainting & finally heart failure.

Get Protected Against Heartworms

Symptoms

During the first six-months of infection the dogs show no indication of the Heartworm Disease. Until the larvae mature and gather inside the heart, lungs & adjoining large blood vessels, they crop no symptoms or signs of illness. Even after the worms become adults, many dogs show slight or no sign of infection. However, some dogs with heavier infections may indicate the signs of heartworm disease as listed below:

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  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal lung sounds
  • Early exhaustion upon exercise
  • Getting breathless easily
  • Fainting

On discovering the above symptoms, you must take your dog to the vet, who will examine & do a blood test to ensure if it has heartworms.

Coughing a sign of Heart Disease

Treatment

A wide-ranging pre-treatment workup i.e. the laboratory check-up is the safest way to treat heartworms, including blood tests, X-rays, and all the checks to assess heart, liver, and kidney function in order to evaluate the infection & its hazards of treatment.

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On establishing how serious the infection is. The treatment is started & the injections are given to

the dog. The vets use the approved & most effective drugs with fewer side effects, which makes it

safer for dogs with late-stage infections.

After preliminary treatment, the dog needs rest (limited exercise) for some weeks in order to give its body enough time to absorb the dead worms without any ill consequence.

Please take note that studies have revealed that after heartworm treatment, exercise stands as the main cause of death for most of the dogs & not the drug itself. Your vet is the one to give you best instructions to make definite that your sick dog gets a suitable rest to recover safely.

The course of treatment does not complete until some weeks later, as the microfilariae or antigens (microscopic baby worms) are dealt with in another course of treatment. The treatment is said to be a success, once heartworm tests stand negative.

Heartworm Treatment Part – 1

Part – 2

Prevention

It  is safe, easy and quite economical compared to treatment of the dog next to when the worms have matured into adults. Although treatment for the heartworm disease is possible in dogs, yet it is a difficult and very expensive course, that takes months for infected animals to recover and the disease causes long-lasting harm to the heart, lungs and arteries, and disturbs the dog’s health and worth of life even after the parasites are gone. Hence, prevention is the best option. But in the course of the disease the treatment should be managed as early as possible.

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An effective & simple heartworm prevention program consists of three steps:

1st Step:

Reduce your dog’s exposure to mosquitoes: Spray insecticides regularly to eradicate mosquitoes in order to make your pet’s environment less hospitable to mosquitoes. Make the use of such products available in the market which can be used to kill and repel mosquitoes. In the first place this decreases the risk of your dog being infected with heartworm.

2nd Step:

Regularly get your dog’s blood tested: This confirms that your dog is free from heartworms. Your vet will recommend the frequency of regular blood tests.

3rd Step:

Preventive Medication: Heartworm preventive drugs are available & are very effective, which should be regularly managed regardless of the mosquito season.

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