Heartworms are one of the parasites that can infect your dog. Other parasites would live on the skin causing severe itching, hair loss and skin disorders. Others are found in the intestines and feed on the partially digested food thereby robbing the dog of the most needed nutrients. As the name suggests, heartworms are commonly found in the heart of the dog. These parasites are also found in the large blood vessels that join the heart and the lungs. Severe heartworm infestation would mean several hundreds of these 5 inch long parasites that can create a blockage in the blood vessels. Numerous numbers of these worms will clot in the right chamber of the heart and hamper its blood pumping function. Heartworms dislodged from the heart will migrate to the lungs causing it to collapse. Because the flow of blood to the lungs is compromised, the brain, the heart and other vital organs will be deprived of oxygen. The abnormal flow of the blood will damage the liver as well. Heartworm infestation can cause irreparable damage to the vital organs of the dog. Heartworm infestation can result to the death of the pet.
The good news is that heartworm infestation can be treated as long as the disease is detected and treated early on. The bad news is that a dog owner will not see the symptoms of infestation until the disease is already in an advanced stage. Aside from the usual dull coat symptom of parasite infestation, a dog with heartworms will show symptoms of congestive heart failure. The dog that has an enlarged abdomen will tire easily, cough, would have breathing difficulties and would have fainting spells. An advanced stage of infestation will result to organ failure. Death is imminent if no treatment is administered. As far as heartworm is concerned, preventive measures are definitely better than cure.
Heartworm preventives can be purchased over the counter and commonly administered once a month. There are also topical applications and pills that can be taken by the dog daily. Chewable and meat flavored heartworm pills are easier to administer given the food motivated nature of a dog. Warm weather months are heartworm season. The heartworm preventive drugs can be given monthly the whole year round in areas with warm climates and six months for areas that have snow during the winter months. Heartworm preventives are not necessary during the winter months. If heartworm preventives failed and the dog is already manifesting heartworm symptoms, treatment is extremely necessary to save the life of the pet.
Before any heartworm drug is administered the vet will conduct tests to verify the infestation. Blood test will be performed to see if the parasites have taken residence. Chest x-ray and echocardiography are at times performed if blood test is negative but the dog is showing some symptoms of heartworms. Treating heartworm, especially one that is already advanced is kind of risky. The chemical treatments are administered for an extended period to kill the adult heartworms and to interrupt the development of the larvae that are waiting to mature. Complications are not unusual given the fact that heartworm drugs contain arsenic. Unlike other heartworm preventives that can be given by the dog owner, Immiticide will be injected deeply into the muscles of the pet. The dog has to be hospitalized and the procedure will be administered by a vet. This is a very painful procedure. Some vets would have the dog sedated. Rather than giving the heartworm drug all at once, treatment is administered for an extended period of time. The purpose is to kill the heart worms slowly. Dead heartworms will remain in the body of the dog for a while before they can be absorbed. Too many dead worms can create serious complications. Heartworms can kill your dog. It is necessary to have the pet checked regularly.