What Dog Owners Should Know About Heartworm

Posted on: 8 June 2023


Dogs can become infested with many different types of worms. But if there is one that really stands out as a distinct threat, it is heartworm. Since heartworm can take a dog's life and cause serious illness, it is important that you are informed about heartworm as a dog owner. Keep reading to learn the basics.

What is heartworm?

Heartworms are a type of parasitic worm. They live in the heart and lungs of the animals that they infest. Lots of wild animals, including foxes, coyotes, and wolves, can develop heartworm infections. As such, heartworms are common outside in nature, and dogs who spend time outside are likely to contract them.

How does heartworm spread?

As strange as it might sound, heartworms are spread from animal to animal by mosquitos. When a mosquito bites an infested dog, some of the heartworm larvae make their way into the mosquito. When the mosquito bites another animal, such as your dog, those larvae can be transferred over. They then develop into adult worms, causing an active heartworm infestation.

Why are heartworms so dangerous?

Heartworms are so dangerous because they can cause deadly conditions in the heart and lungs. They've been known to create obstructions in the lungs that cause dogs to wheeze and suffer attacks similar to asthma attacks. They may also lead to heart attacks, arterial ruptures, and sometimes even strokes.

How do you prevent heartworm?

To prevent your dog from contracting heartworm, ask your vet to prescribe a heartworm-preventative medication. This is a medication you'll give your dog periodically – usually once a month. It will kill any heartworm larvae that enter your dog's system before they have a chance to settle in and reproduce.

How do you treat heartworm?

If your dog displays symptoms of heartworm, such as frequent coughing, lethargy, and labored breathing, take them to the vet. If heartworm is, in fact, to blame, your vet can prescribe a medication to kill the worms. Many dogs respond well and recover from a heartworm infestation, but some do not. Occasionally the medication will kill the worms too quickly, resulting in blockages that cause a heart attack or stroke. As such, it is always better to prevent heartburn from the get-go.

Heartworm is a threat to dogs, but with good preventative vet care, it does not have to be. Talk to your vet to learn more about these bothersome parasites.

For more information, contact a vet hospital such as Angel Pet Hospital today.