Fact or Fiction? Lifesaving Information About Heartworm And Your Dog

sad dog lying down

If you have a dog at home, you’ve definitely heard about
heartworm at some point during their life. In fact, you may be
particularly attuned to the topic because it’s
Heartworm Awareness Month
. Because this disease is so common,
there are many myths and misconceptions about heartworm in
dogs.

Do you know the truth about the cause, symptoms, testing,
treatment, and prevention of this potentially fatal disease? Learn
what’s myth vs. reality.

sad lab lying on couch Dogs get heartworm from
other dogs – Fiction

There’s one way a dog can get heartworm: from the bite of an
infected female mosquito. This is the
only way
your pup can get the disease.

The good news is if your dog becomes infected with heartworm,
you don’t need to keep her away from other dogs in the home or
neighborhood friends. The bad news is it is impossible to know if a
mosquito carries the disease. If your pup gets bitten by the
insect, there is a chance she will get heartworm.

The
FDA
reports that heartworm is most commonly found along the
Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey and
along the Mississippi River. However, there are cases reported in
every single US state.

There are no symptoms of heartworm – Fact/Fiction

At first, your dog may show
little to no signs of the infection
. However, the longer your
dog has the disease, the more likely the symptoms will appear.
These are some of the signs to look out for:

  • A mild and persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

If left untreated, there are very serious consequences. Your dog
could develop heart failure.  Her belly may appear swollen because
of excess fluid in the abdomen.

dog lying down Heartworm can be
life-threatening – Fact

The harm is not immediate, but the sooner you can get your dog
treated, the better. Once your dog is bitten by an infected insect,
it takes about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult
heartworms. They take up residence in your dog’s heart, lungs,
and surrounding blood vessels and start reproducing. Adult
heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length and live 5-7 years.
Dogs can have hundreds of worms in their system. Untreated, these
worms can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to
other organs in the body.

There is no test for the disease – Fiction

As with
many other serious diseases
, early detection is key. Since
symptoms are sometimes slow to show, it is extremely important your
dog visits her vet annually for a simple blood test. Even if your
dog takes heartworm prevention year-round (we’ll get to that in a
little bit), she should still be tested by a vet.

Treatment does not begin immediately – Fact

Here’s the good news: most infected dogs can be successfully
treated. And now for the challenging news: your dog must be
stabilized before treatment can begin. Once you are aware your dog
is ill, you’ll want to get them on the road to recovery right
away. You’ll have to be patient. According to the
American Heartworm Society
, this is what happens when your pup
tests positively: 

  1. A second test will be administered to confirm your pup has the
    disease.
  2. Your dog will need to slow down. “Physical exertion increases
    the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and
    lungs,” according to the American
    Heartworm Society
    .
  3. Before treatment starts, some dogs will need therapy to
    stabilize their condition.
  4. Once your dog is stabilized, treatment starts. There are
    different
    types of treatment
    , depending on the severity and maturation of
    the heartworms. Oftentimes, your dog will get an injectable
    drug.
  5. Several months after your dog’s treatment is completed, they
    will be tested again to make sure there are no more traces of the
    disease.

Heartworm is preventable – Fact

Since heartworm travels via mosquitos,
there is no “natural” remedy for the disease
. The best way
to prevent it is by prescriptive medicine from your vet. There are
different types: a monthly chewable pill (in a flavor your dog will
love), topical “spot on” medications, and an injectable that
is given every six months. One popular brand is Heartgard. But always talk with your
vet for a recommendation.

This is what you need to remember: make sure you give your pup
their heartworm medication on time. Confirm that whatever medicine
you give is specifically for heartworm (that’s where the vet
prescription is key). This is one monthly appointment you
shouldn’t miss.

Preventative medicine costs anywhere between $70-$200 a year.
Consider this: treatment for full-blown heartworm can cost
upwards of $1200
. Which would you rather pay?

The bottom line on heartworm

More than a million dogs in the U.S. have heartworm disease
according to the American Heartworm Society. The best way to keep
your dog out of that statistic is by giving them preventative
medication. Even if you live in an area without many mosquitos
present, heartworm is still very possible. Stay on time with the
medication and make sure your pup is tested annually. Sometimes
symptoms take a long time to appear, so testing is critical.

The post
Fact or Fiction? Lifesaving Information About Heartworm And Your
Dog
appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

Source: FS – Dogs – iHD
Fact or Fiction? Lifesaving Information About Heartworm And Your Dog