In the past few days, Zuzi was not feeling so well. She was not as playful, started coughing lightly and she lost appetite which is very unusual for her.
The first thing I did was open my browser and start googling the symptoms.
It is warm here, we have a lot of mosquitoes and she was never tested for Dirofilaria so I thought I should go straight to the vet and make that heartworm test.
The good thing about the test is that it was almost painless for Zuzi and I got the results 15 minutes later.
While the time passed I asked my vet for more details about the heartworms and it is a very serious but preventable disease.
The adult heart worms live 5 to 7 years in the dog. That is why when the symptoms of the dirofilariasis occur it is usually too late.
The doctor told me that heartworm treatment is possible but expensive and can involve surgical intervention. So the best course is prevention.
Heartworm (Dirofilaria) prevention
Prevention is the best way to fight heartworm disease.
That is why she recommended Sentinel Spectrum. It also covers Hookworms, Roundworms and Tapeworms.
However, there are several other medications that you can buy depending on your needs. Here is a table with what is covered in each medication.
Those are the most effective medication against hearworm because they kill the larvas inside your pet. It is very important that the pill is taken at least once every 30 days. Otherwise the larvas can grow and not be killed by the medication.
E.g if you give your dog a pill on the 1st of May and then you give it the next on the 10th of June there is a 10 day period when the hearworms can grow into adult parasites and the medication will not be effective. That is why you should give it every 30 days and test your doggo next year before you start with the dilarofilariosis prevention again.
Another way to of prevention is to stop the mosquitoes and kill them before they bite your pets. This method is not as effective as the ingestion pills. Still it can be combined. You can buy the K9 Advantix II Flea, Tick and Mosquito prevention from Amazon. It includes eliminating migratory larvae and reducing the risk of mosquito bites.
Recommendations for prevention of heartworm disease
- Heartworms should be eliminated before they reach an adult form
- Prophylaxis for young dogs should begin as early as possible
- Prophylaxis against heartworm is recommended every 30 days during the contamination period, mainly from April to October when mosquitoes are active
- A heartworm test with your vet should be conducted once a year at the beginning of each prophylactic season (April to March) to ensure that prophylaxis was effective.
Heartworm is potentially deadly disease
Dogs may develop symptoms years after they were infected. Until then, heartworms slowly damage the lungs and heart.
Symptoms of the disease may include a weak but persistent cough, dyspnea, weakness even after mild activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
Gradually blood flow through the affected arteries becomes more difficult and heart failure may occur. The most common sign of this is the collection of fluid in the abdominal cavity and abdominal swelling.
If the number of parasites is too large, it can lead to blocking the flow of blood through the heart and lungs that is life-threatening. This condition is known as caval syndrome.
Symptoms can include sudden difficulty breathing, pale wreaths, dark red or coffee-colored urine, unwillingness or inability to move.
Most dogs with caval syndrome do not survive without surgical parasite removal.
Mosquitoes are the dangerous carriers of the parasite
Infestation with larvae of heartworm can occur at any time if your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito. After migration through the tissues, young parasites reach the blood vessels in the lungs. Adult worms reproduce and release immature larvae into the bloodstream, which in turn infect mosquitoes when it bites your dog.
Your dog can get infected at home or while traveling.
Climate change favors the development of parasites and the increase in traveling pets increases the risk of infection with heartworm.
Dogs traveling or living in these states are at risk.
Buy prophylaxis pills to your dogs during the active mosquito season, test them every year with your vet and keep them healthy.
This is something I learned just now but is very important for Zuzi, so if you know Yorkie or other dog or cat owners that can be affected by heartworm – please do share this article and let’s keep our friend’s parasite free and healthy!