Heartworm disease or dirofilariasis is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis, and is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites the dog.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Heartworm?
Most heartworm positive dogs can show no signs of infection for several years, but if left undiagnosed, the most obvious clinical signs are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and loss of stamina. All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise, when some dogs may even faint or become disoriented. Your veterinarian may notice abnormal lung and heart sounds when listening to the chest with a stethoscope. In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may be apparent and the abdomen and legs will swell from fluid accumulation. There may also be evidence of weight loss, poor condition and anemia. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly during exercise or excitement
How can I prevent my dog from getting heartworms?
You can prevent your dog from getting heartworms by using a heartworm preventive. Preventatives will treat the microfilaria transferred by an infected mosquito for a little over a month, and it is recommended that pets receive monthly prevention all year round. The preventatives come in oral, topical and injectable forms and often include intestinal parasite and flea control as well. Safe and affordable heartworm preventives can be given to pets ages 8 weeks and up so that no pet should ever have to endure this dreaded disease.