Heartworm is a potentially fatal parasite that invades a dog’s body via mosquito bites. Mosquitos pass worm larvae from one infected dog to another. The larvae enter the bloodstream and migrate to the heart, lungs and associated large vessels where they grow into adult worms, producing more larva to continue the cycle. Dogs are at high-risk in endemic areas.
What are the symptoms of heartworm in a dog?
Depending on the severity of the infestation, symptoms may include lethargy, exercise intolerance, coughing, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing or may be asymptomatic. Alberta is not considered to be a high-risk area for heartworm disease.
How do dogs get heartworm?
Mosquitos pass worm larvae from one infected dog to another when they bite.
What are the treatment options for heartworm?
There are a variety of treatment options available, mostly as preventative treatment during the spring and summer months when mosquitos are prevalent. This prevents adult worms from taking up residence and reproducing.
Why is recovery and heartworm treatment challenging?
You would think getting rid of heartworm would be as easy as a quick medication to kill the worms. Unfortunately, dead heartworm can cause just as much risk as live ones! Adult heartworm live in a dog’s heart/lungs/big blood vessels. When a dog is infected and not treated, the adult worms are allowed to reproduce, resulting in more adult worms living there. When these adults are killed with heartworm treatment, they can clog up the heart, lungs, and vessels even more. Treatment is a long haul and the dog needs to be confined for it, as physical exertion can cause more damage to the organs.