Is your Dog at Risk?
Heartworm is a deadly disease that has spread its tentacles to just about every part of the United States and even parts of Canada since the early part of the 1970's. Heartworm is spread only by mosquitoes. Naturally, if the area you live in is highly populated by these pesky insects, then your dog is at greater risk to contract the disease.
Heartworm is able to strike both dogs and cats, but it is far more prevalent in dogs. As the name implies, heartworm can be found in the blood of a cat's or a dog's heart and its adjacent blood vessels. The adult heartworms, once they have gained access to the heart, produce offspring known as microfilariae. These offspring then circulate in your animal's blood.
Here is how your dog becomes infected with heartworm: When the mosquito "bites" the infected pet, it begins to suck out blood which contains the microfilariae. The microfilariae must remain in the mosquito for approximately two weeks, and then they become infectious larvae. This is a very necessary step for the transmission of this disease. When the mosquito lights on another pet and bits it, the infectious larvae are then transmitted.
Today, thanks to veterinary research, there are now medicines and procedures that can be administered to your pet which will improve your pet's chances of pulling out of the disease. However, in order for there to be a successful cure, it is vitally important to detect heartworm promptly and beginning treatment right away.
In recent years, there have been very effective diagnostic testing as well as preventive medication that have been developed. Before you can use a preventive medication, such as Heartguard, the dog must have a heartworm test. If preventive measures are taken and the dog has not had a heartworm test, it may have a severe or deadly reaction to the very measures that have been administrated to try to save the dog.
In order for your dog to be screened for heartworm, only a small amount of blood is necessary for the heartworm test. In many areas of the United States and Canada, this may well be the only test that is needed before your dog can begin a preventative program to guard against heartworm. Additional tests may be recommended by your veterinarian in case your dog would show signs of heartworm or has visited an area where there is a big heartworm problem.
In addition to blood screening tests, x-rays or radiographs as well as other sophisticated laboratory tests may be used in the detection of heartworm disease.
Here are the symptoms you my look for if you think your dog may have heartworms:
• Difficulty breathing
• Tires easily
• Weight loss
• Rough hair coat
There are advanced symptoms in many cases, and still other dogs will not appear to have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. If this disease is not detected and controlled with the proper medication or treatment, then heartworm may lead to congestive heart failure as well as death.
Today, most dogs that have acquired heartworm disease will be survivors. Most dogs are cured by medications while others may have to undergo surgery. Do your dog a favor, and get him / her checked for heartworm.