Heartworm in Dogs: Mosquitoes Spreading Disease

Updated on June 28, 2019
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James Livingood has been a dog sitter for several years. He has written numerous articles and a book about the topic because he loves dogs.

Dog scratching from bite
Dog scratching from bite

Dogs are a man’s best friend. Anyone who has ever had a dog as a pet knows that they become family in very little time. You fall in love with their crooked smiles, their cute barks, and the way they welcome you home after a long day. You cannot imagine anything happening to the little puppy that you love and are attached to, but you cannot save them by closing your eyes to reality. The best thing that you should do is listen to your dog. If there is something wrong, then your dog will try its best to make sure you are aware of it.

Blood vessel
Blood vessel

What Is Heartworm?

Heartworm disease is a dangerous disease that can hurt or even kill your dog. As defined by the American Kennel Club, Dirofilaria immitis is a parasite that travels through your dog’s blood. These heartworms can be huge and their sizes can vary from 5mm to 36cm. The size of the heartworm depends on your dog’s gender and the time of diagnosis or the progression of the condition.

These parasites can even multiply, as the female heartworm can give birth to millions of microfilaria. These offspring tend to live in smaller vessels and in your dog’s body for longer amounts of time. They can damage your dog’s lungs, arteries, and many other important organs and even lessen the life of your beloved pet.


How Is Heartworm Transmitted?

Mosquitoes are the real reason behind the condition. The mosquito can bite any other animal with the condition such as stray cats and dogs. This mosquito is then infected. When this mosquito bites your dog, it transmits the microfilaria from the carrier into his/her bloodstream. This worm can then live in your dog for up to seven years and can have millions or offspring which may negatively impact your dog's health.

Dog coughing
Dog coughing

The Four Main Symptoms of Heartworm

Symptoms for heartworm are outlined by the FDA. In the early stages, the parasite enters your dog’s bloodstream; few or no symptoms will be present. This is why you should take your dog to the vet for its regular checkup or investigate this condition within six to eight months.

Your dog can develop a cough, and this cough can last for a long time. Your healthy and active dog can slow down and stop exercising and playing with you or with its toys. Your dog can also start to get tired after exercising for a short period of time (five to ten minutes). Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  1. Decreased appetite and weight loss. Your dog can stop eating or will more than often lose their appetite; this, in turn, will make their weight decrease. You should keep an eye out for your dog’s eating habits, and if they tend to change, then you should make sure that he visits a vet.
  2. The arteries and blood vessels of your dog can get blocked. This can lead to cardiac arrest or a cardiovascular collapse. If this happens, then the chances of your dog getting out of it are slim. Without surgery, your dog cannot make it.
  3. You should keep an eye out for the color of your dog’s urine. If it turns into coffee color or looks bloody, then you should know that it is time for your dog to visit a vet. Please do be prompt and do not procrastinate over such an important issue.

Always keep an eye out for such symptoms and be very punctual with visits to the vet.

What Is the Worst Parasite a Dog Can Get?

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What Are the Chances of My Dog Getting Heartworm?

Many things should be taken into consideration while making sure if your dog is at risk of getting heartworm or not. We are going to discuss these factors and ways you can prevent your dog from getting these nasty parasites.

  • The area you live in has great significance. You can be totally unaware of the deadly heartworms that reside in your area. Animals such as stray dogs, foxes, wolves, and coyotes play a huge role in spreading heartworms. If you live in an area where these wild animals are in huge number, then you should be careful while taking your dog out at night. If you are planning on going to places with these animals in huge number, then you should not take your dog with you.
  • Natural disasters may spread heartworm too. After hurricanes, dogs that are abandoned and are adopted outside of their region can carry heartworm. Owners are often unaware. This happens because mosquitoes travel with the wind and spread the condition into various areas. These mosquitoes may bite abandoned dogs or cats.

The truth is that this disease is spread out everywhere and all you can do is prevent it from reaching your dog. You can do this by making sure your house is clean and by using anti-insect and bug spray to keep mosquitoes out. You should also be careful not to take your dog out for walks in places with dense greenery as mosquitoes tend to stay in greener places. The best way to prevent or decrease the chances of your dog getting heartworms is by giving him preventives every year without missing them.

Vet examining dog
Vet examining dog

How Is It Detected?

You should have your dog tested every year for heartworm. The vet will take a sample of blood from your dog to look for the presence of these nasty parasites. Try to be punctual with the tests and preventives. If you have missed on giving preventives to your dog, then you have him or her tested.

If your dog does have heartworm, then don’t worry as the treatment for worms can kill adult and small worms. If your dog still is suffering from heartworm, then your dog may require surgery. We hope that you found this article helpful. If you found this informational, then please do comment and share.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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