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Symptoms of

Heartworm infections

in Dogs

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The Dog & Heartworms
By: Tippy

The worm Dirofilaria immitis causes heartworm disease, also
known as dirofilariasis. Heartworms affect the heart and
large vessels coming to and from the heart. The male worm is
about half the size of the female worm that can get up to
fourteen inches long. One dog can be infected with as many
as three hundred worms. Often heartworms are fatal in dogs
if the parasite isn't diagnosed and killed early in the

Heartworms are mainly spread through the bite of a mosquito.
In fact, mosquitoes seem to be necessary for the immature
microfilaria that are produced by the female heartworm and
that live in the blood stream of the dog to become
infectious larvae. Once the microfilaria mature into
infectious larvae in the body of the mosquito they travel to
the mouth of the mosquito to be injected into and to infect
another dog.

Once the dog become infected it takes up to seven months for
the heartworm to mature, and it can take years for the
symptoms of heartworm infection to appear. Often heartworm
infection isn't caught until the dog is four to eight years
of age.

Heartworms are a worldwide epidemic in dogs. Heartworms
mainly affect the dog by blocking the blood circulation of
the body. This reduces oxygen to vital organs and tissues
and by the time heartworm disease is caught the parasitic
infection is well advanced and damage to the organs has

Some symptoms of heartworms in dogs that you should look
out for are listed below:

- Listlessness
- Loss of stamina
- Nervousness
- Shortness of breath
- Soft, dry chronic cough
- Weakness

All of these occur more prominently after exercise. Some
dogs may even faint after activity. Often when a
veterinarian checks a dog that is infected with heartworms,
the heart and lung sounds are abnormal. In severe cases
heart failure can occur and symptoms of that disease are
also present. In advanced cases of this disease dogs can die
suddenly after strenuous activity.

Heartworm infection is diagnosed through blood tests and
treated with an injection that will kill the adult
heartworms. It is essential that for the next month, the dog
do nothing strenuous as the dead worm travels to the lung
tissue, obstructing small blood vessels until it is
reabsorbed by the body.

After the month has gone by, the dog is given a second
injection to kill the microfilaria. If the dog has organ
damage this treatment isn't done until the organs are
treated and the dog is cleared to receive the treatment. A
dog can die from these drugs if they are given when it is in
a weakened condition.

To prevent heartworm reinfection there are several
treatments that you can choose from to give your dog. These
are low dosages of anti-parasitic drugs and are usually
given daily unless otherwise directed.

Most often these will be prescribed by your veterinarian but
there are some over the counter brands that you can buy for
this purpose. But even if you decide to use the over the
counter medications be sure to have your dog checked for
infection by a veterinarian first, or the medications can be
dangerous for the dog.

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