Considering that canine heartworm infestation is a severe ailment, which is asymptomatic in the early stages of infection, it is better to do everything possible to prevent it in the first place.
Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a deadly parasite that infects several pet dogs worldwide. As the name signifies, these parasites make their way to the heart and cause life-threatening symptoms.
Even worse is the fact that the condition is asymptomatic in the early phases, which means you only realize that your pet is infected by the condition when it reaches advanced stage.
Why Prevention is Better Than Cure?
Heartworms infect the heart and eventually spread to other organs like lungs and liver. The most noticeable symptom of heartworm infestation is continuous soft or dry cough which is seen when the infection spreads to the lungs and blood vessels near the lungs. Other symptoms include lethargy, fatigue, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Over the period, these parasites multiply in large numbers, thus irritating the lungs and causing severe cough. Also, in the later stages, the pet may manifest symptoms of jaundice. In case your dog collapses without any apparent reason, then heartworm may be the root problem.
If diagnosed in the early stages, the condition can be treated using strong drugs, so as to kill adult worms in the heart and lungs. Very often, the dying and/or dead worms obstruct the blood vessels, resulting in certain health problems and complications. Thus, the most effectual measure is to prevent your pet from getting infected by this parasitic worm.
Heartworm Prevention Measures
Regular Blood Testing
As a pet owner, it is very important to get your dog tested for heartworm infection on a regular basis. You can take your pet to the veterinarian for blood test to determine whether it is suffering from the condition. This becomes even more important if you are residing in a region where heartworm incidence is very high.
Routine blood tests will help in identifying the overall health condition of your pet dog. If your pet is infected by heartworm, the disease can be diagnosed and treated effectively without severe complications.
Avoid Exposure to Heartworms
Heartworms are spread by mosquito bites, with mosquitoes, which serve as vectors for these worms, sucking heartworm larvae along with blood from an infected dog and transferring them to other healthy dogs.
Preventing pet dogs from getting bitten by mosquitoes is the easiest and most practical step to prevent this infection. You can keep the dog kennel clean and less accessible to mosquitoes.
Heartworm Prevention Medication
Another method to prevent heartworm disease is to administer therapeutic drugs and injections. Heartworm preventive oral tablets are available, which are formulated with antiparasitic medication. Usually, such a drug is prescribed once in a month or once in a year.
Some manufacturers use a broad spectrum medicine to prevent all types of worms, like heartworms, flatworms, roundworms, hookworms, etc. You can consult a veterinarian for more information on the same.
It is in the best interest of your pet dog, to initiate these preventive measures when he is less than one-year old.
As with dogs, heartworm infestation in cats cannot be ruled out. However, the symptoms of this infestation in cats are less severe as compared to the same in dogs.
Regardless of whether you have a dog or cat, opting for heartworm prevention is always better than investing time and money in the treatment of symptoms that are manifested when these worms attain maturity and spread to vital organs of the body.