Updated by Amy Granger on Jun 9, 2021
Heartworm disease is a dreaded disease that pet owners need to watch out for. If it goes untreated, it can even be fatal to dogs and other animals. If you suspect your dog has heartworm disease, you will need to take them to the vet right away and seek treatment.
We've put together this handy guide so you can learn more about heartworm disease and notice the signs and symptoms that indicate that your dog might have an issue.
Heartworm disease [Dirofilaria Immitis] is the term that is used to describe parasitic worms that are transmitted to dogs via mosquitos. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, microscopic larvae develop under your dog's skin before migrating to their blood vessels of the heart and lungs.
Once they're inside your dog, they grow rapidly and reach up to 12 inches in length. They're extremely threatening to dogs, as they can cause severe damage to their vessels long before any symptoms are detected.
Your dog is known as a 'definitive host' of heartworms, as the parasite can grow and reproduce in them. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, they grow and reproduce, causing severe damage to your dog's blood vessels. If you live in an area where mosquitos are rife, you will need to take steps to protect your dog from being bitten.
The following can cause dogs to get heartworm:
Even if you've taken suitable preventative steps to protect your dog from harm, you can't offer them total protection, and they may be bitten by a mosquito when you least expect it. If your dog displays one or more of the following symptoms, it could be a sign that they have heartworm disease:
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, you should immediately take them to the vet to seek treatment. Even if it's not heartworm disease, it could be that your dog is exhibiting symptoms of another underlying health condition that requires medical attention.
Although it's a horrible disease, the good news is that in most cases, heartworms in dogs can be treated. Heartworms are usually treated in the following ways:
The first sign of heartworm in dogs tends to be a mild and persistent cough. This is because heartworms exist in and around a dog's heart and lungs and causes chest pains and breathing difficulties.
Preventing heartworm in dogs is about managing the risk of your dog getting bitten by a mosquito. Keeping your dog inside and away from high-risk areas is an important part of preventing heartworm. You can spray your garden with a heartworm fogger to prevent mosquitos from staying in the area and also purchase some over-the-counter medicine to prevent your dog from being bitten by insects.
Some dog owners find success in giving their dog natural oral heartworm preventatives, as well as controlling mosquitos with natural products like citrus oils, cedar oils, and diatomaceous earth.
Heartworm disease isn't contagious, meaning it can't be spread from one dog to another. The only way that one or more of your dogs can get heartworm disease at the same time is if they're both bitten by an infected mosquito.
Heartworm disease is an awful, potentially fatal affliction that is caused by mosquito bites. The best way to protect your dog from heartworm disease is to prevent their exposure to mosquitos and to keep them fit and healthy.
You should also regularly look out for the various symptoms of heartworm disease and ensure your dog receives immediate care and treatment if they suffer from the parasite. Catching it early gives them a good chance of recovery.
If you suspect that your dog has been bitten by a mosquito or that they have heartworm or associated diseases or infection, you should seek medical advice from a vet immediately.