Health Puppy 101

Heartworms- Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Dogs, like humans, are prone to parasites or worms. Aside from the usual worms that you typically know, there are other parasitic worms that may infest your dog. The common kind is the heartworm that can cause dangerous health issues.

What is a heartworm?

Heartworms are a type of parasitic roundworms, which can be transmitted from one carrier to the other through mosquito bites. It’s a thread-like filarial worm that can cause filariasis.  Aside from dogs, it can also affect and infect other animals like wolves, foxes, coyotes, cats, sea lions and much more. In rare cases, it can also infect humans.

 How dogs get infected by these worms

Dogs can only get infected through mosquito bites. One can never know whether mosquitoes in the area are infected, therefore an early prevention is rather critical. This type of disease has been spreading across all 50 states according to reports. Dogs can be infected or get heartworms by just one bite of an infected mosquito.

Aside from areas in the U.S., deserts or areas surrounding deserts are more likely to have mosquitos carrying this vicious disease.

How long  it takes e a mosquito larva to mature

Once your dog has been bitten by the infected insect, six months is needed for the mosquito larvae to mature and become an adult heartworm. They also don’t just dwell in your dog’s’ heart, these parasites can dwell and reproduce in your dog’s’ blood vessels and lungs.

 Knowing the symptoms

How can you determine if your dog is infected with this parasite? If your dog actually does suffer from the heartworm disease, you’ll need to categorize the level of severity. Phase I type of heartworm disease doesn’t usually exhibit signs and symptoms. But occasional coughing can sometimes be observed. Loss of appetite, congestive heart failure and kidney failure also some of the accompanying symptoms.

However, if your dog is already in Phase II, unusual exercise intolerance and coughing is noticeable.  If Phase III has already been reached, exercise intolerance, anemia, and serious heart failure can be experienced by your dog. At this stage when the dog undergoes certain physical examination, further symptoms like hypertension, tachycardia, and labored breathing will be revealed.

How is it diagnosed?

When you suspect your dog to be infected with heartworms, electrocardiography will be conducted. This is responsible for monitoring any changes in your dog’s’ heart. This examination will let you know if there are any disturbances in its heart rhythm or if there’s any visible enlargement in the heart’s right ventricle. Other tests that can be of help are X-rays, serologic tests, and urine analysis.

The risk of heartworm

Heartworms can be deadly to your dog. They can kill them and make them suffer from extreme illness. But with the proper and early treatment, your dog can be saved. So, instead of stressing about it, once you find your dog to be infected fast action against the disease is the best thing you can do for your dog.

How to prevent it

Regular heartworm prophylaxis or in other words, prevention, is necessary in order to avoid any health risks and complications. With this, you will be able to prevent parasite infestation. You can also ask your vet for other effective ways to avoid heartworms.


Adulticide is one option of treatment. This is administered to your dogs for the purpose of killing the adult parasite (heartworm). Monthly prophylaxis can get rid of the microfilariae in your dog’s’ body and be administered at home. However, if your dog already suffers from other diseases or complications, hospitalization is required. There are also cases that require a surgical procedure.

Parasites are diseases that put dogs’ health at risk. Therefore, proper monitoring and prevention are crucial for ensuring your dog’s safety.