Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite that is transmitted to dogs through mosquito bites.
This parasite grows into large worms that infest your dog’s heart and lungs, blocking vessels and eventually leading to conditions such as heart failure.
How does Heartworm affect your dog?
When first infected, dogs generally show little to no symptoms of illness. This is because the initial infection involves “Microfilariae” which are essentially baby heartworm.
They may block blood flow and deprive the nutrients and oxygen normally supplied by the blood. Microfilariae primarily injure the lungs and liver. The kidneys may also be affected.
Theadult heartworms which grow to full size over several years cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart, including the pulmonary artery. They also interfere with the function of valves within the heart.
By clogging the main blood vessels, the blood supply to other organs of the body is reduced, particularly blood flow to the lungs, liver, and kidneys. Decreased blood flow and decreased oxygen delivery can cause these organs to malfunction.
What are the symptoms of Heartworm Disease?
It usually takes several years before dogs show clinical signs of infection and unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is usually well advanced.
The most obvious clinical signs of heartworm disease are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, listlessness, and loss of stamina.
All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise, when some dogs may even faint or become disoriented. Your veterinarian may notice abnormal lung and heart sounds when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.
In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may cause the abdomen and legs to swell from fluid accumulation. There may also be evidence of weight loss, poor condition, and anaemia. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly during exercise or excitement.
What is the prognosis if I choose not to treat my dogs Heartworm?
If left untreated, the Heartworm will continue to grow and multiple and eventually they will cause such a serious blockage of the heart and arteries, your dog will likely go into Heart failure.
The sooner treatment can be started; the better the outcome will be for your dog.