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Dog Heartworm Disease: What it is, How to Treat it, and Where to Get Help

Dogs bring joy and companionship to our lives. However, just like us, dogs can get sick. One of the most serious and potentially life-threatening diseases that can affect dogs is heartworm disease. In this article, we’ll explore what dog heartworm disease is, how to treat it, and where to get help.

What is Dog Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a parasitic disease that affects dogs, as well as other mammals, including cats, foxes, and coyotes. The disease is caused by a pesky parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis that’s spread by mosquitos. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up the heartworm larvae and carries them to another animal when it bites again.

Once inside a dog’s body, the heartworm larvae mature and grow into adult worms, which live in the heart and lungs of the dog. As the worms grow and multiply, they can cause serious damage to the dog’s heart, lungs, and other vital organs. The disease is called “heartworm” because the adult worms can grow up to 12 inches long and can be found in the dog’s heart and major blood vessels. That’s no good.

Symptoms of Dog Heartworm Disease

In the early stages of heartworm disease, dogs may not show any symptoms, or they may only have mild symptoms, such as coughing, fatigue, and decreased appetite. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms can become more severe and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  •  Weakness and lethargy
  • Persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Collapse

If left untreated, heartworm disease can be fatal. Therefore, it’s important to take your dog to your veterinarian for regular checkups and to have them tested for heartworm disease annually.

How to Treat Heartworm Disease in Dogs

The good news is that heartworm disease is treatable, but the treatment can be expensive and complex, and it can take several months to complete. The treatment involves several steps:

Step 1: Testing and Diagnosis

If your dog is showing symptoms of heartworm disease, your veterinarian will perform a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Step 2: Stabilization

Before starting treatment, your veterinarian will need to stabilize your dog’s condition. This may involve giving your dog medications to help relieve symptoms, such as coughing, and to improve their overall health.

Step 3: Medications

The next step is to give your dog a series of medications that will kill the adult heartworms. These medications can have serious side effects, so it’s important to closely monitor your dog’s condition during treatment. Medications should only be taken after consulting with your veterinarian and always following the intended use and guidelines on the label.

Step 4: Rest and Recovery

After the adult worms are killed, your dog will need to rest for several weeks to allow their body to absorb and eliminate the dead worms. During this time, your dog will need to be kept calm and quiet, and you’ll need to limit their exercise.

Step 5: Preventative Medication

Once your dog has recovered from heartworm disease, it’s important to prevent them from becoming infected again. This can be done by giving your dog monthly heartworm preventive medication, which is available from your veterinarian or from online pet pharmacies like Jeffers Pharmacy.

Where to Get Help

If you suspect that your dog has heartworm disease, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian for testing and treatment as soon as possible. It’s also important to work with your vet to prevent heartworm and keep your dog healthy. Jeffers Pharmacy offers great options for heartworm prevention and treatment, making it easy and affordable to keep your pup happy and healthy.

It’s important to use a regular monthly prevention such as Trifexis, Heartgard Plus, Advantage Multi, or Interceptor Plus to keep your dog from getting heartworm disease in the first place. This, combined with annual heartworm testing at your vet, will ensure a happy and healthy dog and dog owner.