QUESTION: I just got a 7 month old dog. What are Heartworms and should I be worried about them?

ANSWER: The battle against Heartworms is an on going thing for many people's dogs. If you are in an area known for Heartworm Infestation, then:

Canine Heartworm disease, so named because the adult worms live in the right side of the heart. It is spread by the ordinary Mosquito and can be found wherever Mosquitoes breed.

Signs: Some dogs can harbor Heartworms for several years before showing signs. These vary according to the number of worms, duration of infection and immune response of the host dog. Consequently the disease may be mistaken for another problem.

The most common signs are a soft, deep cough, shortness of breath and intolerance to exercise. After exertion, the cough MAY occasionally become so severe that the dog faints. The dog will tire easily, appear unusually weak and listless, lose condition and may bring up bloody sputum. Weight loss is nearly always present.

As the disease progresses, the dog begins labored breathing even at rest. Because of weight loss and increased respiratory effort, the ribs become prominent and the chest starts to bulge.
Final stages are "Congestive Heart Failure" and/or "Liver failure", followed by death.

Only a Veterinarian can decide on the best treatment for your dog. If the Vet finds the dog to already be heavily infested with Heartworms, the first stages of treatment can only be given and monitored closely by the Vet as this is very serious.

On the other hand, if starting when the dog is young, the owner may find it possible to get "Preventative" directions and medication from the Vet and give it to the dog monthly in areas where heartworm is known to be a problem. In other areas, the Vet may prescribe a different regime of treatment.

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