If a dog has heartworms, what symptoms should I look for?

Heartworm disease typically causes a cough, weight loss and poor exercise tolerance. This can also be true of many other diseases as well which may be more common, so testing for HWD is critical to making sure that this is not causing the clinical signs.

How does a dog get heartworms?

A dog gets heartworm disease from being bitten by a mosquito carrying the infective larvae which it has picked up after feeding on another canid which has heartworm disease.

What are the treatment options for heartworms?

It is much easier to prevent heartworm disease than to treat the clinical disease. Once clinical signs of heartworm develop due to infection, the damage to the heart and lungs can be irreparable. If an infection is identified early enough, injections which are painful and require hospitalization for several days can be done to clear the disease. We typically recommend preventive medication for dogs so that the larvae will not develop in the dog even if they are bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease.

Why is recovery for heartworm treatment so challenging?

Recovery after treating for heartworm disease is challenging as the adult heartworms can die and when pieces of the dead parasite are disseminated into the vascular system, this can cause severe reactions such as shock, or breathing issues or fever. Also, heartworm disease, may have caused serious damage to the heart muscle and lungs and result in congestive heart failure which is not reversible.

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