Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets mainly dogs and cats. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate and produce offspring while living inside a dog. The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective (able to cause heartworm disease). The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.
What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in a Dog?
The severity of heartworm disease is related to how many worms are living inside the dog (the worm burden), how long the dog has been infected, and how the dog’s body is responding to the presence of the heartworms.
Symptoms of heartworm disease may not be obvious in dogs that have low worm burdens, have been recently infected, or are not very active. Dogs that have heavy worm burdens, have been infected for a long time, or are very active often show obvious symptoms of heartworm disease.
There are four classes, or stages, of heartworm disease. The higher the class, the worse the disease and the more obvious the symptoms.
- Class 1: No symptoms or mild symptoms such as an occasional cough.
- Class 2: Mild to moderate symptoms such as an occasional cough and tiredness after moderate activity.
- Class 3: More severe symptoms such as a sickly appearance, a persistent cough, and tiredness after mild activity. Trouble breathing and signs of heart failure are common.
- Class 4: Also called Caval syndrome. There is such a heavy worm burden that blood flowing back to the heart is physically blocked by a large mass of worms.
When Should a Dog Be Tested for Heartworms?
Annual testing of all dogs on heartworm prevention is recommended and this test is carried out at our clinic, the results are ready in 10 minutes. Based on the results if negative you can get the heart worm/ tick & flea prevention for the summer and protect your loved one!
Summer is here, and so are the mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks!
Fleas cause skin irritation and a lot of discomfort to your pet.
Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis.