Heartworms in Dogs: Facts and Myths
Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important.
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. And the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease has not only spread throughout the United States, but it’s also now found in areas where veterinarians used to say “Oh, we don’t have heartworm disease.” Areas like Oregon, California, Arizona, and desert areas — where irrigation and building are allowing mosquitoes to survive. And if you have mosquitoes and you have animals, you’re going to have heartworms. It’s just that simple.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Worms
Worms are one of the most common health problems for a dog. Fortunately, most cases are also very treatable. Since your dog can’t speak English, you need to be vigilant and watch for any unusual behavior.
Unfortunately some types of worms do not cause noticeable symptoms until they dog’s health is at risk. But the most common types are fairly obvious.
Some signs that your dog may have worms include:
– Visible worms or eggs in the feces. This is the most common sign of infection. —However, not all kinds are visible to the naked eye.
– Visible worms in fur or around dog’s rear. Tapeworms in particular may appear as small moving segments which later dry out to resemble grains of rice.
– Scratching or rubbing of rear. If you dog scratches their bottom on the ground or against furniture, they may be itchy due to infection. Itchiness however can also have other causes.
– Visible worms in vomit.
Bloated stomach or belly. This is often seen in puppies who get worms from their mother.
– Weakness, increased appetite, constant hunger, and weight loss. Worms steal their host’s nutrition.
– Diarrhea, particularly with blood.
– Through mother. Newborn puppies can become infected by their mothers. –Roundworm eggs form dormant cysts in adult dogs. These eggs themselves are not treatable, but are activated when the host dog becomes pregnant. A mother dog’s milk can also pass roundworms to puppies.
– Dirt. Roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae can live in dirt. If you dog comes into contact with infected dirt, they can become infected.
– Fleas. Young tapeworms can reside in fleas, infecting a dog that swallows fleas while grooming.
– Hunting. Wild animals may carry worms. If your dog hunts or eats wildlife, it may become infected.
How to Treat Your Dog
If you think your dog has worms, take your pet to the veterinarian.
There are safe and effective treatments available, which your vet will likely prescribe. For the most common types of worms, there are some all-in-one medications in flavored chewable tablets.
– Iverhart Max tablets are used to treat common worm conditions. The tables include three active ingredients: ivermectin, to prevent heartworm, pyrantel pamoate, to treat roundworms and hookworms, and praziquantel, to treat tapeworms.
– Selamectin is also used to treat and prevent heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms.
– Milbemycin oxime is used to prevent heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and some whipworms.
– Paziquantel is used to treat tapeworms.
– Some vets even recommend that especially vulnerable dogs take monthly tablets to prevent worms.
Heartworm treatment recovery is often rough.
Heartworm treatment often causes pain to spread throughout the dog’s lower back muscles and makes the dog feel nauseated. Both symptoms will usually ease in a couple of days. As the worms begin dying off, it is common for a dog to cough or gag. Symptom are generally at their peak at 7-15 days after the injections, and this is when the dog is in most critical danger of pulmonary embolism from the dead and decomposing worms. If the coughing/gagging is very heavy, seems uncontrollable, or causes the dog distress, or if the dog has vomiting or any bloody discharge combined with lethargy, fever and/or pale gums, this should be considered an emergency, and the dog should be taken to the veterinary or emergency clinic immediately. Corticosteroids, fluids, and oxygen may be needed at this time to help the dog survive.