Unfortunately, it’s as scary as it sounds: worms that live in your dog’s heart and major blood vessels of the chest! Heartworm doesn’t need dog to dog contact it is transmitted via mosquitoes.
Heartworm disease regularly kills dogs in many parts of Australia, that includes South Australia. But it is also easily preventable.
How do dogs get heartworm?
• Mosquitoes transmit the disease to dogs by injecting tiny heartworm larvae through their skin.
• The larvae develop in the tissues and migrate to the heart where they grow into adult worms 10 – 15cms long.
• The adults live in the heart and the large blood vessels associated with the heart.
• They reproduce and release more larval offspring into the dog’s blood stream.
• These larvae are then taken by a mosquito during a blood meal and transmitted to another dog and occasionally cats and humans.
What are the signs that my dog may have Heartworm?
Clinical signs of heartworm in dogs
are due to the stress that adult worms cause to a dog’s heart and pulmonary arteries. The signs of heart disease or heart failure are:
• Tiring easily with exercise
• Coughing and problems getting their breath
• Loss of appetite
• An enlarged abdomen
How do vets check for heartworm in dogs?
• A Blood test will identify if adult heartworms or their offspring are present
• Chest radiographs (Xrays) and ultrasound may also be used
• Clinical signs and supportive history, and risk of exposure
Can heartworm in dogs be successfully treated?
Heartworm can be treated, but it carries high risk for your dog and there are no guarantees of success. Your dog needs a series of arsenic-based injections or possibly even surgery to remove the adult worms from their heart. The main risk is blood clots forming around or on the dying worms in your dog’s heart. As with most of these sorts of things, prevention is better than cure.
Starting at 3 months of age, a range of products are available such as tablets, chews, syrups, top spots on the skin and injections .Some preventive treatments are daily, some monthly or an injection Annually.
Familypet Vet can advise you on the most suitable product for your puppy.
If your adult dog has been off heartworm preventative medication for longer than 6 months they will require testing before commencing any type of preventive treatment.
Heartworm can be found all through the mainland of Australia. South Australia is not the most affected state but cases still appear. This is mainly due to the traveling most Australians do throughout the states with their dogs and return to South Australia with infected dogs.
So prevention is the key.
If you are planning an interstate travel with your dog then come and speak to us at Familypet Vet about the best product to use for your unique situation.
In 2015 there have been 24 cases of heartworm confirmed in Adelaide.
Heartworm in Cats
Heartworm is rare but can be found in cats too. There are several confirmed cases in South Australia If you want to be sure your cat is not one of the few then treatment with Advocate will give you peace of mind.