Heartworm in dogs – Worm of the Heart

heartworm in dogs
Heartworm in dogs can be hard to diagnose.

Heartworm in dogs

Victor was a happy, hearty, healthy and quite often hyper American Pit Bull Terrier. He ran seven miles a day with his owner and during the summer months was known to swim for hours. He had become a neighborhood favorite and it wasn’t unusual to find the neighborhood kids playing fetch with the red nosed Bully after school.

The stories of his athleticism stretched from home to home. His ability to jump five foot fences, or hang from a branch for hours were legendary and the brags and boasts were accurate to the point of being braggadocios!

Then one summer evening after a brisk bike ride the giant Victor collapsed in the driveway. His barrel like chest heaving up and down with each breath.  He tried to pull himself upright as he had done so many times before, but collapsed again. His owner called for him, slapping his pants leg to get the young dog to rise again, but Victor did not rise again.

Frantically the owner puts the dying dog in the back seat of his sedan and speeds to the emergency vets office in town. It was too late, Victor passes in route to the vet and the tears for a local legend begin at that moment. The diagnosis as to the cause of his death was heart worms. An epidemic that has caused the death of thousands of dogs around the country over the past twenty plus years and is not currently slowing in parts of the country.

The story of Victor is not uncommon and unfortunately families suffer the loss of a pet to the disease far too often considering the disease is easily preventable. For around the cost of your favorite coffee a week you can purchase heart worm prevention that will prevent your dog from experiencing a similar death to Victor.

Heartworm in dogs is carried through mosquitos, it only takes one mosquito to infect a dog with the disease. All fifty states have had dogs die or be infected by infected mosquitos and the disease. In states where for years the thought was the disease didn’t exist, it has popped up and affected dogs. It is now recommended that all owners treat their dogs with the monthly preventative. The options are pills, liquids and topical treatments once a month. The preventative is nearly 100% effective when administered properly and with preventative that is not expired.

The signs of heartworm in dogs are not easy to diagnosis, especially since the parasites can lay dormant or show no signs of existence for up to 7-9 months! The general signs are laziness and sometimes a dog will pass out due to the parasites running through the dogs body. In cases like Victor, exercise or over exertion can knock a relatively healthy dog from being in the prime of it’s life to being dead in a driveway in what seems like a moments notice. Often owners have no idea that their pets are infected and will just think their pet is hot or tired. This is often when treatment is too late, or becomes too costly.

The cost of preventing heartworm in dogs is inexpensive, for less than one hundred dollars a year you can save your pets life, but in the event that your pet does contract the parasites the treatment can be quite costly. The treatment can range as high as twelve hundred dollars, or as little as three hundred dollars depending on your vet. Some individuals think that giving the monthly preventative to an affected dog will serve as a treatment. The truth is putting a dog on the preventative without the arsenic based treatment regiment can take up to 2 years to kill the juvenile worms in a affected pet.

Even though this will kill the parasites, it will not stop the damage that will have been caused over the period of time that is irreversible.  The treatment will also require a period of rest, where an active dog will be required to not be active. Running, playing, or jumping is to be avoided as the exertion can and will kill many of the dogs that have been treated for the disease. The fact is even after treatment if a dog is not placed on a preventative it can again be affected. There is not an annual vaccine that pets can take to prevent the parasite.

Owners have to be diligent in giving the preventative once a month year around. Some owners may try to skip the preventative during the winter months, but this is not advised. The fact is remembering to administer the pill monthly is hard enough for most owners and skipping months is not a great idea when it comes to the health of your pet. The other factor is that Mosquitos only need a single warm day to be present in some areas, which could result in a dog being bitten and infected during the cooler, colder months.

Dogs like Victor will always be considered neighborhood heroes, but it will take owners doing their part to prevent stories of sudden death in dogs that are pillars within their community. To learn more about preventative treatments for heart worm we here at BullyMax encourage you to consult your vet and perform annual heartworm on dogs checkups for your four legged family member.

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