Dogs get heartworms from the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it can pick up microscopic baby heartworms called microfilariae, which live in the bloodstream of infected animals. The mosquito then carries these microfilariae to the next animal it bites, which can include dogs, cats, and even humans.
Once inside a dog, the microfilariae develop into adult heartworms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the animal. These adult worms can grow up to 12 inches long and can cause serious damage to the dog’s organs and circulatory system.
Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, there are safe and effective treatments available to prevent and treat heartworms in dogs. It is important for pet owners to work with their veterinarians to develop a prevention plan to keep their dogs safe from heartworm disease.
What are the first signs of heartworms in dogs?
The early stages of heartworm disease in dogs may not show any signs or symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, the following symptoms may be observed:
- Coughing: A persistent cough that gets worse over time is one of the most common signs of heartworm disease in dogs.
- Fatigue: Dogs infected with heartworms may become easily tired and lack energy.
- Difficulty breathing: Dogs with heartworm disease may have difficulty breathing, which can be accompanied by rapid breathing or wheezing.
- Reduced appetite: Infected dogs may show a decreased appetite or lose weight.
- Swollen belly: Dogs with advanced heartworm disease may develop a swollen belly, caused by fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
- Weakness: Infected dogs may show signs of weakness or even collapse.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for testing and treatment. Early detection and treatment can improve the outcome for your dog.
Can heartworm in dogs be cured?
Yes, heartworm disease in dogs can be cured, but treatment can be lengthy, expensive, and can involve some risks. The treatment process usually involves a series of injections of medication that kill the adult heartworms, and dogs may need to be hospitalized for a period of time during the treatment process.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the adult heartworms and prevent further damage to the dog’s organs and circulatory system. However, it is important to note that the medication used to kill the adult heartworms can cause severe side effects, and dogs need to be closely monitored during treatment.
Prevention is the best way to protect dogs from heartworm disease. Monthly heartworm preventive medication is highly effective in preventing heartworms from infecting dogs. Therefore, it is essential for dog owners to work with their veterinarians to develop a prevention plan and keep their dogs on a regular schedule of heartworm prevention medication.
The Heartworm Lifecycle in Dogs
The lifecycle of heartworms in dogs involves several stages, including:
- Infected Mosquitoes: The lifecycle of heartworms begins when an infected mosquito bites a dog, and the mosquito deposits the infective stage of heartworm larvae into the dog’s bloodstream.
- Migration: The heartworm larvae migrate through the dog’s tissues for several months, during which time they develop into larger larvae.
- Adult Heartworms: The mature larvae eventually reach the dog’s heart and blood vessels, where they develop into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and can cause severe damage to the dog’s organs and circulatory system.
- Microfilariae: Adult heartworms produce microscopic baby heartworms called microfilariae, which live in the dog’s bloodstream and can be picked up by mosquitoes when they bite an infected dog.
- Transmission: When an infected mosquito bites another dog, it can transmit the heartworm larvae to the new dog, continuing the lifecycle of the heartworms.
It is important to note that heartworms can only be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and cannot be transmitted directly from one dog to another. To prevent heartworm disease in dogs, it is essential to use a regular heartworm prevention medication and to minimize exposure to mosquitoes. Regular testing and treatment can help to prevent serious health problems and complications from heartworm disease.
Can dogs get heartworms from drinking water with mosquito larvae?
No, dogs cannot get heartworms from drinking water with mosquito larvae. Mosquito larvae require still, stagnant water to develop, and the larvae need to be eaten by a mosquito before they can develop into the infective stage that can cause heartworm disease.
To become infected with heartworms, a dog needs to be bitten by a mosquito that carries the infective stage of the heartworm larvae. The larvae then migrate through the dog’s tissues and eventually develop into adult heartworms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
While drinking water with mosquito larvae in it may not cause heartworm disease in dogs, it is still important to prevent standing water around your home, as it can attract mosquitoes and increase the risk of your dog being bitten by an infected mosquito. It is also essential to keep your dog on regular heartworm prevention medication to protect them from heartworm disease.