Heartworm Basics

By April 23, 2012 April 25th, 2012 Uncategorized

         Spring has sprung!!!  The snow is melting, the sun is shining, and the mosquitoes will soon be buzzing.  What does this mean for our canine companions???  Heartworm season is upon us once again.  The staff at the Barrydowne Animal Hospital in Sudbury are committed to keeping your four legged friend healthy and happy throughout their lifetime and therefore have compiled some interesting info on heartworm disease. 

          At the Barrydowne Animal Hospital, we HIGHLY recommend an annual blood test for heartworm disease and three other diseases carried by ticks. 
          Those pesky mosquitoes that like to buzz in your ear can be more than just an annoyance for you and your dog.  Heartworm disease is carried by mosquitoes and can be transmitted to your dog when they are bitten by these little terrors.  You may think that because your dog has a long, thick coat that he is safe from mosquitoes but truthfully, mosquitoes are not particular and will find a tasty spot for themselves on any type or breed of dog.  There are actually 30 species of mosquito that are carriers of heartworm disease and there is no vaccine to boost your dog’s immunity against the disease.  Once infected, the larvae (babies) enter your dog’s bloodstream and make their way to the heart and connecting vessels. There they take up permanent residency and grow to maturity within 2-3 months.  Female heartworms can reach anywhere from 6-14 inches while the males will only reach half of that size.  Feeling a little uneasy that something of that size can live in your best friend’s heart?? Well, get this, 1 dog can have as many as 300 worms!!!

           Since 2010 there has been a significant increase in the number of heartworm cases in North America.  Unfortunately, without annual testing and preventative measures, the disease is often only detected when it has progressed and the result can cause irreversible damage to your pet.  Adult heartworms play havoc with your dog’s internal functioning.  They clog arteries and the major blood vessels leaving the heart.  These vessels carry blood supply to vital organs and when this flow is compromised, it can cause serious damage to the lungs, liver and kidneys, and may even cause heart failure or death.  Symptoms of heartworm disease include a soft, dry cough, weakness, shortness of breath, nervousness, listlessness, and a loss of stamina.  These symptoms tend to be more prevalent after physical exercise.

            So what have we learned??? Undergoing the proper preventative testing measures can help ensure that your canine companion stays heartworm free throughout their lifetime BUT if heartworm disease is present, early detection can make all the difference and a treatment plan can be put in place with your veterinarian.


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