Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes to dogs. We are lucky in Nova Scotia that so far, our cold winters make heart warm extremely rare here. With more and more dogs coming to Nova Scotia from outside of the province, regular testing coupled with a strong heartworm prevention program is recommended for any dog exposed to mosquitoes (that’s all of them!).
If a dog has heartworms, what symptoms should I look for?
Heartworm infection can lead to congestive heart disease. Common symptoms can include exercise intolerance, coughing and lethargy. If you notice any of these, please call your veterinarian immediately.
How does a dog get heartworms?
Heartworm is transferred from an infected dog to another dog via a mosquito. The mosquito bites and feeds off an infected dog and the parasite develops within the mosquito. The mosquito then bites another dog thereby infecting it with heartworm. Dogs cannot get heartworm directly from another infected dog via contact or bodily fluid exchange. The mosquito must be involved.
What are the treatment options for heartworms?
Prevention is preferable, and many products are available for this. If treatment is required, there are a number of options. The best course of action will be determined in consultation with your veterinarian. The good news is that if caught early, many cases can be successfully treated if proper protocols are adhered to. Most dog owners should count on a lengthy and involved recovery. In cases of heartworm, where the disease is advanced, the heart and surrounding vessels have already been damaged and life expectancy is significantly reduced.
Why is recovery for heartworm treatment so challenging?
When the large worms living in the heart and blood vessels die, they begin to decompose so they can be reabsorbed. These broken pieces of adult worms can cause blockages of the heart valves and blood vessels. Strict rest for a prolonged period after treatment is essential, which can be very challenging depending on the dog and owner’s lifestyle.