Heartworm infection in dogs damages their vital organs. Knowing heartworm symptoms in dogs can help you save your dog from a trip to a 24 hour vet Kansas City emergency animal hospital. Kansas City veterinarians can provide you with vital information to help combat any infection to your pet or pets.
A heartworm is a roundworm that belongs to phylum nematoda. Also known as Dirofilaria immitis, it is a thread-like parasite and its vector is mosquito which transmits it from one host to the other. It is called ‘heartworm’ because the adult sexually active worm is found in the right ventricle of the heart where it can live for years. The heartworm infection generally affects dogs but other animals like cats, foxes, wolves, and coyotes can also be infected by it.
Before learning the heartworm symptoms in dogs, understand how this infection occurs. The mosquito sucks the blood of an infected dog and the larva of the heartworm with it. It is then transmitted to another uninfected host animal when the carrier mosquito bites it. The heartworm undergoes changes inside the body of mosquito that prepares it to infest the dog. The parasite then goes through many stages of its life cycle in the host before finally emerging as an adult. The adult heartworm is found in the right side of the heart and some arteries of the lungs.
Heartworm symptoms in dogs do not appear until infection is in an advanced stage. Around 250-300 heartworms might be present in the dog, at a time. The asperity of the disease depends upon the number and location of the worm, the duration of infection, and the response of the immune system of the dog.
- Cough: The dog experiences mild, dry cough mostly when the parasite infests the lungs. This symptom mostly never raises an alarm and is generally taken by the owners as a seasonal cold and cough.
- Shortness of breath: Breathing difficulties are often indicative of serious illness. If your dog is having trouble breathing, go to a vet immediately.
- Vomiting: Vomiting can be due to many reasons like stomach upset, etc. But it could be one of the heartworm symptoms in dogs. Vomiting could also occur when the dog is nervous and uneasy.
- Reduced appetite: If your dog is not eating as much as it used to, try to find a reason. Loss of appetite is a definite indication of a problem.
- Tiredness: If the dog gets tired easily, shows lack of interest, laziness, or faints after exercise and physical activity, it is an alarming situation. The dog may experience these because the heart is severely infested by the parasite and is not able to pump the blood properly.
- Nervousness: The dog might be acting in a strange way, not responding properly to your calls, etc. This is due to nervousness and anxiety that the pet feels. Any strange behavior of the pet that continues for more than a day should never be ignored.
- Considerable weight loss: If your dog is eating properly and still losing weight, it indicates that there is a serious health concern. It could be a heartworm symptom.
Heartworm symptoms in dogs may also include jaundice, anemia, enlarged ribcage, abdominal swelling, and presence of blood in phlegm and stool.
Heartworm disease can be treated at a 24 hour Kansas City vet hospital to save your dog if it is diagnosed in time.
Since the parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes, the first and foremost thing to do is to stop their growth. That action will save your dog from heartworm infection and also save you from any possible malaria threats. An antigen detection test and blood tests for microfilaria can be done by veterinarians to confirm the presence of infection in the blood.
Treatment May Be Unnecessary If The Following Steps Are Followed.
Heartworm treatment for is both complex and dangerous. Since the disease affects the vital organs, the treatment becomes intricate. It includes two steps:
- Adulticide therapy, that is killing the adult worm by administering heartworm medication for dogs, like thiacetarsamide sodium or melarsomine dihydrochloride (IV or IM).
- Filaricide therapy, that includes the killing of microfilaria by administering ivermectin and milbemycin drugs. This is carried out 3-6 weeks after the adulticide therapy.
A blood test can be performed at a vet clinic after 3 weeks of filaricide treatment to ensure that there are no more parasites present. More than 95% of dogs are treated successfully. Heartworms may sometimes have to be surgically removed in a veterinary hospital for critically ill dogs.Author profile