Heartworm and your Pet
Heartworm is a large parasitic worm of the roundworm family that thrives in the animals heart. It feeds on nutrients in the bloodstream and can grow to a length of fifteen to thirty centimetres. In severe cases, up to five hundred worms may infect a dog. If left untreated, heartworm can permanently disable your pet or cause its demise. Canine heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all Canadian provinces and fifty U.S. states.
Protecting Your Dog
A blood test conducted by our hospital can quickly determine whether or not your pet is infected. If your dog is not infected, a preventive program should be initiated. In 1994, there were three hundred and sixty four cases of canine heartworm disease reported in Ontario as opposed to two hundred and sixty seven in 1993 - an increase of thirty six percent. Three hundred and forty three of the three hundred and sixty four dogs diagnosed with heartworm disease had not previously been on any kind of preventive medication.
A program of medication that protects your pet during the mosquito season can halt the development of any infective larvae that have been passed on by mosquito bites. This ultimately breaks the heartworm life cycle. No maturing larvae means no further production of offspring, eliminating the source of mosquito transmissions to other animals.
The initial dose should be given late May, early June and continue until at least one month after the end of the mosquito season (November).
Unfortunately, by the time symptoms of heartworm become apparent, the effects on internal organs may be too advanced to be treatable. Typical signs of the disease are:
? chronic cough
? laboured breathing
? premature fatigue
? general lack of energy
? heart attack after exertion
Treatment for heartworm can expose your dog to potentially dangerous and costly procedures, so prevention is obviously far more desirable.