Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heartworms - Some Basics You Shold Know

From WebMD Healthy Pets

Heartworms in dogs are easy to prevent but difficult and costly to cure. Our friends at WebMD Healthy Pets asked Sheldon Rubin, 2007-2010 president of the American Heartworm Society, to separate facts from the myths about heartworm infestations in dogs. Here is some information he provided.

Prevention methods for heartworms is so important because dogs get heartworms
only by being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is no other way for dogs get heartworms - period. Also, since there is no way to tell if a mosquito is infected, prevention is the only safe way to keep your dog from getting heartworms.

Heartworm disease has now been reported in all 50 states. The bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae can give your dog heartworm disease. Simply stated, if you have mosquitoes and animals (mammals)/pets, you are going to have the threat of heartworms.

Once bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length. They can live from five to seven years and a dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.

Infected dogs cannot give/transmit heartworms to other dogs or people. Once again, the only way a dog gets heartworms is to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are a specific
parasite that affects only dogs, cats, and other mammals. In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but they are not able to complete their life cycle and mature.

Is it OK to adopt a dog with heartworms, many people ask? The answer is a definitive - YES! It is perfectly acceptable to adopt a dog with heartworms, but you have to be dedicated to having the disease treated appropriately. Having heartworms is a horrible disease that can lead to the dog's death if left untreated.

Preventing heartworms is easier and cheaper than you might think. For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog. There are monthly pills, monthly topicals that you put on the skin, and there's also a six-month injectable product. The damage that's done to the dog and the cost of the treatment is way more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease.

If a dog is infected with heartworms, there wil be no visible symptoms. As more and more worms crowd the heart and lungs, most dogs will develop a cough. As it progresses, they won't be able to exercise as much as before; they'll become winded easier. Eventually, most dogs will die if the worms are not treated. Prevention is the key to keeping your dog healthy.

After it has been determined that your dog has heartworms, treatment is required. The safest way to treat heartworms includes an extensive pretreatment workup, including X-rays, blood work and all the tests needed to establish how serious the infection is. The drug that you treat with is called Immiticide. It's an injectable, arsenic-based product. The dog is given two or three injections that will kill the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart. With all the prep work, it can run up to $1,000. But just the treatment can be done for about $300 in some areas.

Treatment of the heartworms is necessary to kill them and rid your dog of the disease. Your dog will not "outgrow" them. Without treatment, your dog stands a very good chance of dying. Once rid of the heartworms, start/continue to administer your prescribed heartworm medicine. Dogs are able to get heartworms again. This makes prevention of the utmost importance for the care of your dog.

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