April is Active Dog Month
The month of April is Active Dog Month. This month-long…
Heartworm is an extremely serious and potentially fatal health condition in dogs. Heartworms are foot-long worms which inhabit the heart, lungs and blood vessels of our pets which results in severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other bodily organs. In addition to affecting dogs, heartworm may also affect our cats and ferrets.
Heartworms are transmitted mainly by the mosquito. The mosquito lands on an infected animal and then lands on an otherwise healthy animal and transmits the microscopic larvae known as microfilaria. Once inside a new host, the heartworms take approximately six months to mature into adult heartworms. Mature adult heartworms can live up to seven years in your dog’s body.
What are the signs of heartworm?
In the beginning stages, your dog may not show any signs at all. The longer your dog has heartworms, the more signs will show. Active dogs or those with lowered immune systems often show the most. In advanced stages, you may notice a continuous cough, easily fatigued dog. You may also see weight loss as well as a decreased appetite. Once your dog has had heartworms for a significant amount of time, you will begin to notice more severe symptoms such as a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. The heartworms may also block your dog’s vessels resulting in cardiovascular collapse.
Prevention of this condition is crucial.
Heartworm medication is available topically, via injection or orally and should be provided to your pet routinely to prevent heartworm infestation. Your dog should also be tested routinely for heartworms. Testing allows heartworm to be caught as early as possible for treatment in the case of a positive result. Since symptoms do not show immediately, veterinarians often recommend testing for heartworm once per year or more frequently in highly infested areas.
Amber L. Drake, a Professional Canine Behaviorist and Adjunct Professor of Biological Science, has extensive experience in the Animal Science Field. She has worked with dogs professionally for over ten years. Her clients range from private pet parents to large canine rescue organizations. In addition to accepting clients on a regular basis, Drake serves as an Adjunct Professor at Jamestown Community College and Kaplan University. Drake has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), Educational Specialist Post-Masters, Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework at Cornell University for Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Biochemistry at UC Berkeley, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and a number of Continuing Education courses to remain up-to-date in her field.