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Preventing Heart Worms
When a dog joins a household, it is more than just a pet. It becomes a part of the family. Like every member of a family, it is important for us to keep our dogs as healthy as possible, and to be on the lookout for common diseases that can affect dogs. Not only is it important to keep dogs healthy for their benefit, but also, for the benefit of society as a whole.
Preventing heart worms in dogs is a crucial step to keep a dog healthy. A heart worm is a parasite known as dirofilaria immitis. Although the parasite can be found in cats and in other animals, it is most commonly found in dogs. Heart worms live in a dog's heart and can do extensive damage. Although cases of heart worms are found in every state in America, the disease is most prevalent where mosquitoes are prevalent, such as in the southeastern states.
How do dogs get heart worms? The disease is spread by mosquitoes, and it can be spread with just one bite. When a mosquito bites a dog, it deposits larvae into the dog. Once the larvae is inside the dog, it travels through the bloodstream. Eventually, it makes a home in the right side of the heart and in the arteries of the lungs. These worms can grow 10 to 12 inches.
The worms can live in a dog for years, causing a dog to get critically ill with problems in the lungs and with blood circulation. In worst cases, a dog can die from the disease due to heart failure. Preventing heart worms in dogs in important to save a dog's life.
How do you know if your dog is infected with heart worms? Symptoms of infection include:
Loss of weight
Frequent bowel movements
Loss of energy
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it should be taken to the vet promptly.
Preventing heart worms in dogs means that every dog should get a yearly heart worm screening, because a dog could be infected with the disease without exhibiting signs. Some dogs show signs of the disease in as little as 6 months. Other dogs take years to show signs. Screening for heart worms includes an annual blood test. However, a great way to prevent heart worms is to give your dog monthly pills such as Heartgard for dogs designed to prevent the disease. Recommendations should come from your veterinarian.
When a dog is infected with heart worms, a veterinarian must administer the appropriate treatment for the dog. This is the final step, because it is important for dog owners to realize that preventing heart worms in dogs is the goal. Once a dog is infected, the treatment can be painful, costly, and sometimes, ineffective.
If your dog is infected with heart worms, it will be evaluated to see if it can be treated in a safe manner. If the disease is caught early enough, just like many diseases, it can be treated successfully. Your dog will receive a physical exam, x-rays and blood work. If your dog is considered healthy enough to receive treatment, typically medication is by way of injections. During the treatment period, which can take several months to complete, it is important for the owner to keep the dog restful and calm.