Heartworm disease is a serious disease that is caused in pets by a worm, Dirofilaria immitis, carried by mosquitoes. When a carrier mosquito, bites your pet, the worm will be pass into your dog's bloodstream.
- Affecting Your Pet’s Heart
When the microfiliaria worm is injected into your pet’s bloodstream, it is transported to your pet’s heart. Here, it goes through the blood vessels and to the pulmonary vessels of the lungs. The worm is then actually protected by the pulmonary vessels and the heart, which gives it the opportunity to grow up to several inches long. Once the worm becomes an adult, it becomes capable of breeding with other heartworms and producing young known as microfilaria. Mosquitoes pick up the new worms when they bite your pet and then carry the worms to other animals.
- Risk Factors for Heartworm Disease
Dogs are more prone to developing heartworm disease. Heartworm is found in all mainland states of Australia with tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions affected the most. Both dogs and cats are at risk of developing the disease.
Outdoor pets are more likely to develop heartworm. Indoor pets, however, can still develop the disease. Even pets that never go outside have been known to get heartworm. Therefore, all pets – whether indoor or outdoor – should be protected from heartworms.
Heartworms cause damage to your pet’s blood cells and vessel walls. The damage they cause results in scarring, clotting, and narrowing of the blood vessels. As a result, your pet’s blood pressure goes up and causes the heart to pump harder. Ultimately, the pet’s heart fails. The more worms infesting the body, the faster this process takes place. In addition, heartworms can live anywhere from three to five years as they damage your pet’s heart.
Pets with heartworms will sometimes cough up the worms as they enter into their air passages. This often looks as if the pet is vomiting the worms. In reality, these worms are coming from inside your pet’s lungs. Pets with advanced heartworm disease will frequently cough, get tired easily, have a decrease in appetite, lose weight, have abdominal swelling, experience fainting, and have problems with their blood clotting.
A variety of heartworm medicines can be given to a pet in order to prevent heartworms from occurring. These include Heartgaard Plus (which is commonly mispelled as Heartguard Plus) and Proheart, which can be given monthly, and Dimmitrol, which is given every day. In order to provide your pet with the greatest protection, it should remain on heartworm medicine throughout the entire year.