Heartworm Disease - Is My Pet at Risk?

in Disease

Heartworm disease is an increasingly dangerous disease; however, it is a completely preventable infection. So what is Heartworm Disease? Heartworm Disease is when parasitic worms grow and mature inside the chambers of your pet's heart and within the large blood vessels of their lungs; thus, causing heart failure and damage to their pulmonary arteries. Left undiagnosed and untreated, this disease can become serious and in some cases fatal. This being the main reason heartworm prevention and early detection cannot be stressed enough!

The number of pets infected with heartworm disease increases each year within the United States. Heartworm cases have been diagnosed and reported in as many as 48 states. Your pet needs heartworm protection no matter where you live. Heartworm disease is not defined by your climate, as previous thought. Additionally, heartworm disease is most common in dogs and cats, but can affect other species.

Your pet can be infected by heartworm disease if bitten by a mosquito that has previously bitten another animal affected by heartworm disease. Mosquitoes transmit the parasites directly from one bloodstream to another. Heartworms cases have been reported to have reached lengths of up to 14 inches in length.

Parasitic worms have 5 larval stages and are termed "L1," "L2," "L3," L4" and L5". Heartworm microfilariae is the first stage larvae: "L1"s. The microfilariae will develop within a mosquitoes to L2's and finally to L3's, the stage capable of infecting a new dog. Once safely transmitted to the new host (your pet), the L3 will spend the next week or two developing into an L4 within the host's skin. The L4 will live in the skin for three months or so until it develops to the L5 stage and is ready to enter the host's circulatory system. The L5 stage is actually a young adult heartworm, which migrates to the heart and out into the pulmonary arteries where it will then mate, approximately 5-7 months after first entering the new host.

Veterinarians recommend a complete three part heartworm prevention program. This program consists of having your veterinarian test your pet routinely for heartworms, providing your pet with preventive heartworm medications (these medications can be obtained through your local veterinarian), and decreasing your pets exposure to mosquitoes.

Furthermore, there are mosquito repellents designed especially for dogs that can help prevent mosquito bites; which will also help prevent your pet from being infected with the West Nile Virus, another very serious condition spread by mosquitoes.

Dogs with heartworm infections may exhibit a cough, a decrease in their appetite, sudden weight loss, an inability and lack of interest to exercise, and general weakness. Additionally, your pet may also suffer from breathing problems, vomiting, blindness, and/or seizures. If you notice marked changes in your pets behavior to include these health warning signs contact your local veterinarian and schedule your pet for testing as soon as possible.

After all who knows your pet better than you! The best defense is a strong offense - heartworm preventive is a year round commitment. Give your pet the chance at a long and happy life doing what they do best - LOVING YOU!

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Debbie Hubbard has 1 articles online


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Heartworm Disease - Is My Pet at Risk?

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This article was published on 2010/03/31