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Canine Heartworm Disease

Canine Heartworm Disease (dirofilariasis) is a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening disease in dogs. (Very occassional cases of this disease have been found in cats, horses, foxes and skunks.) It is caused by long white worms called Dirofilaria Immitis which collect and live in the large blood vessels near the right side of the heart. A dog can have up to several hundred of these worms in his body.
Although a dog can live a normal life with a few of these worms in his body, when too many accumulate, they impair blood circulation, which in turn can lead to severe damage to the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. If not detected and treated, this can lead to congenitive heart failure and death.

Surprisingly, Canine Heartworm Disease is spread my mosquitos. When a mosquito sucks an infected dog’s blood, microscopic heartworm larvae enter the mosquito’s body, where they incubate for about two weeks. When the mosquito then bites another dog, these worms pass into that dog’s blood and after about three months when the worms reach adult size, they accumulate around the dog’s heart. Naturally, this means that this disease is more prevalent in areas that have a high mosquito population.

Generally this disease is easily detected through a simple blood test. But at times, an x-ray or echocardiogram as well as other laboratory tests may be needed to diagnose heartworm infection.

So what can you do to treat your beloved pet if it has got Canine Heartworm disease? Thankfully, heartworm disease can be treated if detected early enough. A series of injections with an arsenic based drug kills the worms, and lodges them in the small blood vessels near the lungs. They decompose there and are gradually absorbed by the body over a period of several months. Once all the adult worms are dead, another drug is given to kill all the microfilariae (microscopic immature forms of heartworms). It is extremely important that the dog receive complete rest during treatment to prevent damage to the lungs when the worms decompose. Do not exercise the dog, or get it over stimulated.

Remember, it is always better to prevent disease than to have to treat it. Happily, there is a way you can keep your pet heartworm free. Ivermectin is given once a month year round for the prevention of heartworm disease. It helps prevent canine heartworm disease by eliminating the tissue stage of heartworm larvae (Dirofilaria immitis) for a month (30 days) after infection. A dose every month ensures a pet free from dreaded Canine Heartworm Disease. Ivermectin is available in tablet form, and as an Ivermectin injection.
You can also minimize mosquito bites by using a topical non-toxic mosquito repellant. Good diet, exercise and rest strengthens your pet’s immune system to help fight off all infections before they can get serious.

Heartworm disease is very preventable but potentially difficult and dangerous to treat. Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure your beloved pet gets its Ivermectin dose each month.

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
- Milan Kundera

To your dog’s good health!

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