Heartworms

  

 Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs which is transmitted by mosquitos. It is caused by the blood-borne parasite Dirofilaria immitis.  It can take years before dogs show the outward signs of infection and by the time they show those signs the damage done can be devestating.  The disease is seldom diagnosed in a dog less then one year of age because the young worms (larvae) take up to five to seven months to mature after infection.

 

  Adult heartworms cause disease by taking up space in the heart and major blood vessels. By restricting blood flow through the main blood vessels, the blood supply to the organs of the body is reduced, particularly blood flow to the lungs, liver and kidneys, leading to malfunction of these organs.

 

Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is well advanced. The signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of adult heartworms present, the location of the worms, the length of time the worms have been present, the size of the patient and the degree of damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

 The most obvious signs are a soft cough, shortness of breath, weakness and loss of stamina. All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise when some dogs may even pass out. There may be evidence of weight loss with or without an enlarged belly, poor condition and anemia. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly during exercise or excitement.

 Heartworm disease can be detected by a blood test, but further diagnostic procedures may be required to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment. 

Heartworm treatment for dogs does involve some risk and fatalities can occur. In the past the drug used to treat heartworms contained a high level of arsenic and toxic effects were frequent. A newer drug is now available that contains lower levels of arsenic and toxic side effects are infrequent allowing successful treatment in the majority of cases.

 It’s important to start your puppy on heartworm preventative early. There are safe and affordable heartworm preventatives available. Please contact our office and one of our staff can help you get your pet started on heartworm preventative today!

 

Durocher Veterinary Clinic * 703 Jackson St * Thibodaux, LA 70301 * 447-8261