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HEARTWORM DISEASE IN DOGS


What causes heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease (dirofilariasis) is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs. It is caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis.

Heartworms are found in the heart and large adjacent vessels of infected dogs. The female worm is 6 to 14 inches (2.3 to 5.5 cm) long and 1/8 inch (5 mm) wide; the male is about half the size of the female. One dog may have as many as 300 worms.

Can my dog get heartworm disease?
Yes. Your dog can get heartworm disease, whether he's an "outside" dog or even if he stays inside most of the time. Dogs get heartworm disease from mosquitoes. It is the female mosquito that bites and transmits the infection. Female mosquitoes are very tiny and can easily slip through cracks around windows, doors or screens. Every dog can be at risk, indoors or out.

Are some dogs more susceptible than others?
Unfortunately, no dog, or breed of dog, is immune to heartworm disease. The mosquito that bites your dog could be carrying this common and deadly parasite. One bite from an infected mosquito is all it takes for your dog to become infected.

How can I know for sure if my dog already has heartworm?
The only way to know for sure is to have your family veterinarian examine and test your dog. The procedure is quick and easy. But don't delay in calling your veterinarian to arrange for a heartworm test. If your dog gets heartworm disease, treatment can be dangerous for him and expensive for you.

When is the right time to get my dog tested?
Mosquitoes, the carriers of heartworm disease, can be found at varying times of the year depending on the climate. Ask your veterinarian when the best time is to have your dog tested.

Where are heartworms found?
Canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world. In the United States, it was once limited to the south and southeast regions. However, the disease is spreading and is now found in most regions of the United States and Canada, particularly where mosquitoes are prevalent.

How do dogs get infected with them?
The disease is not spread directly from dog to dog. An intermediate host, the mosquito, is required for transmission. Spread of the disease therefore coincides with the mosquito season. The number of dogs infected and the length of the mosquito season are directly correlated with the incidence of heartworm disease in any given area.

It takes a number of years before dogs show outward signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed mostly in 4 to 8 year old dogs. The disease is seldom diagnosed in a dog under 1 year of age because the young worms (larvae) take up to 7 months to mature following establishment of infection in a dog.

How is heartworm infection diagnosed?
In most cases, diagnosis of heartworm disease can be made by a blood test that can be run in the veterinary hospital. Further diagnostic procedures are essential, in advanced cases particularly, to determine if the dog can tolerate heartworm treatment.
















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