How would my dog catch heartworm?

Heartworms come from mosquito bites, and everyone knows here in Kansas, we have plenty of mosquitoes during the summertime. Those mosquitoes carry heartworm larvae, so when they bite your dog, they inject that larva under the skin, and it goes through a series of stages, but it ends up in the heart as a worm that looks like a piece of spaghetti that's about 11 inches long. It lodges in the right side of the heart and can be fatal, but it also causes damage to their longevity.

Dr. Larry Nieman
Neighborhood Vets Mobile Care

How soon should I bring in my dog to see a veterinarian for heartworm prevention?

Usually, it's once a year. We just have to take a few drops of blood to run a test right here on the table in the van. That test checks for tick borne diseases and heartworm disease. So it's really simple and requires just a few drops of blood.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworm so important?

If you don't catch it when it's early, it's very difficult to treat. The damage that's done to the heart and lungs is fairly severe by that time, so it's really important that you test for it once a year. The most important part of that is that once we test your dog for heartworm disease and they're negative, you can give a once-a-month chewable tablet that is really palatable. Dogs love them, and you give it to them once a month, and it prevents heartworms, but it also prevents hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Hookworms and roundworms are contagious to you and your family, so it's really important not just for your dog's health but for the health of your family with this furry family member that lives in your home.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (913) 423-8375, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/NeighborhoodVets, https://www.instagram.com/neighborhoodvets

Dog Heartworm - FAQs

Dr. Larry Nieman
Neighborhood Vets Mobile Care

What is heartworm disease, and how can it affect my dog?

Heartworm disease is caused by mosquito bites, and then the mosquito injects a small larva under the skin. Over a period of months, it moves through your dog's system and lodges in the right side of his heart, and it develops into a worm. It looks like a piece of spaghetti, it's 11 inches long, and there's never just one, so it has a marked effect on their heart and lungs.

What are the signs in my dog that would indicate they may have heartworm?

If your dog has a persistent cough, he's losing weight, or having problems with a bulging chest, some of those are the initial signs of heartworm disease.

What are some middle to late-stage symptoms of heartworm?

If your dog has had heartworms for over a few months, it will begin to affect his heart and lungs, which affects his liver and kidneys. When those worms affect the blood flow throughout the heart, it gets less oxygen, so there's trouble breathing. The symptoms and signs of that can be different, but coughing is the worst. It is a persistent cough, not just an occasional cough.

What can be done to stabilize my dog's heartworm disease?

You need to get a treatment plan from a veterinarian because each individual is different. The dogs usually have to be put in the hospital for a period of time to get the initial treatment and then have a period of strict rest as the heartworms begin to die and get shed off into the lungs.

How will a veterinarian diagnose if my dog has heartworm?

It's pretty simple. We just need three drops of blood, and in about five minutes, we get a test result, and it's very accurate.

How soon after infection will a dog show signs of heartworm?

It does have to be in your dog for a few months in order to develop into the adult worm, but once they get adult worms in their heart, that's when your dog will start having symptoms. Once those worms have started to impede the blood flow in the heart, that's when we get the secondary signs in the liver, kidneys, and lungs.

Is heartworm painful?

Not really. It just impedes blood flow, so the result of that is that it's really hard for your dog to breathe, and it's really hard for your dog to exercise.

Are heartworms visible?

No, you can't see them. Although, in the blood sample back in the old days, we always used to put the drop of blood in the microscope and look because there are little tiny baby worms in the blood that you can see called microfilaria. Now we test for antigens to these parasites, and it's much more accurate because there's not always microfilaria.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (913) 423-8375, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/NeighborhoodVets, https://www.instagram.com/neighborhoodvets

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