Updated: Nov 30
Heartworm is a parasitic worm which, as an adult, resides in its host’s heart and lungs. Heartworm disease occurs when the adult worms become so long that they inhabit not only the heart and lungs but also the associated blood vessels leading to heart and lung failure and at worst cause death.
Symptoms in dogs will usually only be noticed once the infestation has reached a critical state up to three to five years after the initial infection. You will usually notice a progressively worsening cough in conjunction with wheezing and exercise intolerance. Other clinical signs you may notice are lethargy, fainting, tummy swelling and weight loss.
Diagnosing heartworm disease can be as simple as a quick blood test in the clinic. Due to the life stages of heartworm sometimes even if your dog has a negative result a second blood test may be recommended in six months to ensure they are completely clear. An infection will usually take a few years to develop into a severe infestation and as long as it is caught, early treatment can prevent serious consequences.
Treating heartworm can be difficult and take a prolonged length of time. Care must be taken that a severe allergic reaction is not stimulated by killing too much of the heartworm infestation all at once. We also need to reduce the risk of the heartworm larvae being spread to other animals via mosquitoes. This means dogs being treated for heartworm are usually recommended to be kept inside for a couple of months during the treatment process. The heart also needs time to fully recover from the extra strain that has been placed on it.
Prevention is easy, but sometimes also easy to forget! There are many monthly tablet, chews and top spot options as well as a yearly injection which can make remembering even simpler. Ask our vets and nurses about which option will work best for you and your pet, they are more than happy to discuss all of them with you.
Although cats can become infected with heartworm they do not live their entire lifecycle within them. The parasite will only live for two to three years, dying before adulthood.
Give us a call on 07 3288 1822 to speak with us about prevention or testing of heartworm for your dog, we’re always here to help.
Heartworm Microfilariae - You can see them wriggling around.
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