The internet can be full of misinformation on many subjects, and the issue of dog heartworm protection is undoubtedly one of them. If you search for this topic right now, you will find quite a few sources telling you it’s basically “no big deal” to let your dog’s heartworm protection slide for a little while. This is entirely not true. You must, as a dog owner, keep up with your pet’s heartworm protection. Heartworms are not something to take lightly, and you must make it your responsibility to take care of your dog’s health.
What are Heartworms?
Despite the name, heartworms don’t only affect the heart of a dog. Heartworms can be found in the lungs and arteries connected to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are a type of roundworm. They are usually the width of a thread, but they can grow a foot long and live up to seven years.
How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?
Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes to dogs. An unprotected dog bit by a mosquito is likely to be infected with heartworms, and infection is more common in areas with a large mosquito population. It only takes one bite from one infected mosquito to cause heartworm disease. Many people share a misconception that heartworms don’t exist in areas where there aren’t many mosquitos. There have been cases of heartworms in every single state in the U.S. Also, many believe that heartworm prevention isn’t necessary for the winter months. There genuinely aren’t many areas that get cold enough in the winter for every single mosquito to die, so this thought simply isn’t true.
What Happens Once a Dog is Infected with Heartworms?
Dogs are hosts to heartworms. A host for a parasite allows the larvae to mature into adults and reproduce more heartworms. Most dogs with heartworm disease have a couple dozen worms, but some dogs have been found with hundreds. Once a dog is infected, the larvae will take less than a year to grow to adult size and cause symptoms.
Symptoms of a Dog with Heartworm
Without treatment, heartworm disease can lead to severe lung damage and even heart failure. Heartworms can even cause damage to the circulatory system through scarring. The damage heartworm disease causes are irreversible in every area that the worms occupy in your dog. Talk with your veterinarian if your dog is showing any of these symptoms.
Lack of Energy
The first symptom you may notice in your dog if infected with heartworms is a lack of energy.
Usually, they will also have difficulty breathing due to heartworms infecting their lungs and causing issues and even a cough.
Dogs may also lose weight when infected with heartworms.
How Dogs are Diagnosed with Heartworm
A simple blood test done at your animal hospital will show the presence of adult heartworms in your dog. The treatment, however, is anything but simple. The sad part of this disease is many dogs aren’t diagnosed until the heartworms have been in their system long enough to cause severe organ damage.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Heartworm
There are many cases where the organ damage is so significant that the veterinarian will suggest treating the organ damage to make the pet more comfortable rather than risking treating the heartworms. If a dog has had heartworms long enough to cause deterioration of this kind, the prognosis is bleak. Infected dogs that aren’t good candidates for treatment usually live a few months more at best. Dogs must be in an otherwise stable health condition to take any heartworm treatment. The primary heartworm treatment can be risky and taxing on the dog and just not feasible in the later stages of this disease. Heartworm treatment usually consists of a series of painful injections to your dog and minimal exercise to prevent serious side effects.
Why Heartworm Protection is Important
Heartworm treatment, even when successful, is a painful time for both you and your pet dog. Your dog will be unhappy, restricted, and in pain. Heartworm disease treatment can cost up to thousands of dollars even without dealing with any complications that will hurt you and your dog even more. However, heartworm disease protection for dogs is inexpensive and painless compared to this. Typically, heartworm protection costs you less than $20 a month. It can come in a liquid or chewable pill form for the dog and is simple to administer. Most veterinarians will administer heartworm protection for you at a regular wellness exam, and it’s usually one of the most inexpensive treatments itemized on your bill. Protection is painless, affordable, and quick. Treatment is expensive and aggressive. The choice is simple when you look at all the facts.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy is Easy
Heartworm disease in dogs is a terrible and sometimes deadly condition that any dog owner should want to avoid at all costs. Thankfully the cost of avoiding it is very easy. The cost is heartworm protection. It’s simple and cheap and an easy decision. Heartworm disease is too common and too easy to catch to take the risk of letting your dog’s protection slide for any amount of time. A dog with heartworm disease will usually never be the same again. You may be left with a pet that needs constant monitoring of its health and continuous vet appointments to keep up with the damage done by the disease. That’s only if they were able to be treated in the first place. Don’t take the risk of losing your dog to this. Stay current on your dog’s heartworm protection at all times throughout their whole life, and you won’t regret having a happy, healthy pet.