Heartworms, Your Dog, and What to Do Next

Veterinary laboratory equipment

Dogs have been companions for people for thousands of years. In fact, dogs and people have very often been the best of friends to one another, making life much more joyful and pleasant for both species.

To state the obvious, dogs come in all shapes and sizes. For that matter, so do their owners. Dogs, no matter their breed, size, or shape, can be very susceptible to heartworms. With upwards of 80 million dogs being owned in the United States alone, veterinary diagnostics have become quite reliable when it comes to gauging the severity of the heartworm antigen.

Heartworms can be a very serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs and other pets, as well. This is true in the United States and also around the world. The heartworms are typically foot-long worms that can live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of affected dogs and other pets. The worms can cause heart failure, severe lung problems and a great deal of damage to other related organs if left undetected and untreated.

Heartworms can live in many different types of species, including, on very rare occasions, humans. One of the reasons we see these worms in household pets, specifically dogs, is that many wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas and are important carriers of the disease. If your dog is like most, it will eat things it shouldn’t and before you know it, will become infected with heartworms.

Veterinary diagnostics have become extremely proficient in recent years. It has become quite simple for a veterinary laboratory to perform a canine heartworm test to determine the extent of an infection. You can even do a dog heartworm test at home, saving yourself the time and trouble of going to the vet straight away.

If your dog does test positive for heartworms, it would not be alone. Over one million dogs are diagnosed as being positive for heartworms every year. The treatment can cost upwards of $1,000 so it would make sense to try a preventative route if you can. Veterinarians all over the country can offer you heartworm medication that is designed to stop the infection before it even occurs, making the body a place where heartworms are no longer welcome.

If you have not been able to get the preventative heartworm medication to your dog in time, there are certain signs you will want to look for in your best bud. In the early stages, most dogs will show few symptoms and sometimes no symptoms at all. The longer the infection goes on, the more likely it is that the symptoms will develop. Active dogs, especially, will show pronounced clinical signs.

Some of the signs of heartworm disease early on can include a mild or persistent cough, a reluctance to exercise, a decrease in appetite, weight loss, and severe fatigue after moderate activity. If you have a dog who loves to exercise, these symptoms should set off at least a mild alarm.

As the disease progresses, the appearance of a swollen body due to excess fluid in the abdomen area might occur. In addition, your dog might develop heart failure. Veterinary diagnostics have developed to a point where it is relatively easy to detect the early signs. Obviously, the earlier you can diagnose the problem, the better chance you and your dog have of overcoming the disease and making a full recovery.

If you even suspect your dog is showing symptoms of heartworm disease, take him to the vet for an examination. Veterinary diagnostics and proper medication can treat this terrible problem in your dog. If you do not get your dog the proper treatment, the worms can grow and eventually cause severe blockages in the heart and bloodstream. Few dogs can survive when things get that bad.

If you have a dog, it is likely it is as close to you as any human could be. You want to take care of him. Your veterinarian can offer all of the advice you will need when you have questions about heartworms or any other ailments in your pet.