Your dog has been diagnosed with a serious disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis, worm-like parasites better known as heartworms. For your pet’s health and well-being, prompt veterinary treatment is vital. Steps must be taken not only to eliminate the infecting worms, but also to protect your pet from future infection. Here are some commonly asked questions and other information you should be aware of:
How Did My Dog Get Heartworms?
Tiny immature heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites. First, the parasites move into and throughout your dog’s tissue and eventually begin to occupy your dog’s heart. As the worms grow, they reproduce, and more immature worms are released into your dog’s blood stream. Then when other mosquitoes bite your dog, they pick up these new immature worms and transmit them to the next dog it bites, and the process repeats itself.
How Did My Dog Get Heartworms?
Yes, it is very serious. Heartworms interfere with the normal flow of blood from the right side of the heart to the vessels serving the lungs. If left untreated heartworm disease can result in congestive failure of the heart and other organs. It will also considerably reduce the quality of your dog’s life and will ultimately lead to death.
What are the signs of Heartworm Disease?
At first dogs may exhibit few signs of infection, but as the heartworms grow and mature, they cause increasing damage. Your pet may become listless, tire easily, develop an occasional or persistent cough, and become anemic.
In advanced cases, dogs often suffer congestive heart failure. Complications may develop in liver and kidneys. The blood supply to lungs and other major organs may become blocked. However, these problems can only be detected through laboratory testing.
What can be done to eliminate heartworms in my dog?
A complete physical and medical examination is necessary to determine the health status of your dog and the severity of the disease. Laboratory testing and X-rays may be ordered as part of the complete work-up to help assure treatment tailored to your dog’s condition.
Heartworms can be treated with two injections of a medication, which is very effective, 24 hours apart. Your dog will be kept in hospital for this procedure and closely monitored. Supportive medication will be administered as necessary on a case by case basis. A medication will also be prescribed following the heartworm treatment to kill the remaining immature heartworms in the blood.
Heartworm disease is a very serious health problem, but the knowledge and skill of our veterinarian, combined with modern medicines, provide your pet with best chance for recovery.
How Soon Can My Dog Come Home?
In most cases, dogs can go home after the second injection is administered. However, your pet’s condition is also a consideration when deciding when they can be released. Since heartworm disease and treatment are serious matters your pet will need some extra TLC (tender loving care), as well as rest, after treatment.
When Can My Dog Resume Normal Activity?
Rest is necessary to prevent complications resulting from stress on the heart and lungs. Your dog will need to be kept quiet and confined for a number of weeks, determined by the severity of your dog’s disease. For most dogs, staying inside is sufficient.
Very active dogs will need to be closely confined and monitored. Our veterinarian will let you know when your animal may resume normal exercise.
Are There Any Problems I Should Look For?
As the worms within the heart and circulatory system are eliminated, some dogs experience a temporary lack of appetite, upset stomach, drooling or panting. Signs of fever, respiratory difficulty, or depression may also occur in response to the treatment. If these or other signs of discomfort develop, please call us and we will see that your pets gets the appropriate treatment.
Can My Dog Get Heartworms Again?
Yes, unless you protect your pet. Heartworms are easily transmitted by mosquitoes, and having them once does NOT make your dog immune. Following treatment, your pet must begin taking heartworm preventative.
When Should I Bring My Dog Back to the Clinic?
We will schedule a check-up for your dog to ensure full recovery. Four months after treatment a follow-up test will be given to make sure that your dog is heartworm negative.