Heart worms and the importance of protection

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Blaze here, boy do we have quite the update! 

First off, we need to keep our paw prayers in motion! Our fur buddy Tipper is not doing very well. He is struggling with heart worm troubles. 

For those don’t know what heart worm is, we are going to share what we can to help better inform you. 

Heart worm is transmitted by infected mosquitoes.  Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heart worms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important.

Heart worm disease has been reported in all 50 states. And the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heart worm larvae will give your dog heart worm disease.

Heart worm 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 heart worm 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 heart worms. It’s just that simple.

It takes about seven months, once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, for the larvae to mature into adult heart worms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length, can live 5-7 years, and a dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.

People have asked if they can get heart worms from their dogs?

Heart worms are only be passed on by mosquitoes. It’s a specific parasite that only affects dogs and cats and ferrets and other mammals. In rare cases, heart worms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle. The heart worm will migrate to the lung and cause a round lesion that looks like a tumor. But these are very rare cases.

The other common question is if one of my dogs has heart worms, can he give it to my other dogs? The answer is no.  Again, the only way heart worms are transmitted is through the bite of an infected mosquito. And even if an uninfected mosquito bit your infected dog, and then bit your uninfected dog the same night, he wouldn’t transmit the parasite from one dog to the other. That’s because when a mosquito bites an infected animal, the heart worm needs to undergo an incubation period in the mosquito before the mosquito can infect other animals.

Now, is it OK to adopt a dog with heart worms. Unfortunately it is a very common problem in animal shelters today, and public shelters rarely have the money to treat heart worm disease. It’s perfectly acceptable to adopt a dog with heart worms, but you have to be dedicated to having the disease treated appropriately, because it’s a horrible disease that can lead to a dog’s death if left untreated.

So now that we now what heart worm is. Let’s bark about how to prevent dogs from getting heart worms? For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heart worm disease in your dog. There are monthly pills, monthly topical 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 heart worm disease. A year’s supply of heart worm preventative will cost about $35 to $80, depending on a dog’s weight.

Oh boy, before we forget, here is the bery important stuff! What are the symptoms of heart worm infestations in dogs? Initially, there are no symptoms. But 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. With severe heart worm disease, we can hear abnormal lung sounds, dogs can pass out from the loss of blood to the brain, and they can retain fluids. Eventually, most dogs will die if the worms are not treated.

Now, before you all worry about money and treating heart worm, we have the information on that too! 

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 heart worms in the blood vessels of the heart.

The safest way to treat heartworms includes an extensive pre-treatment workup, including X-rays, blood work, and all the tests needed to establish how serious the infection is. Then the dog is given the injections. 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.

Oh and we must be kept dog quiet during the several months of treatment for heart worms because as the worms begin to die, they break up into pieces, which can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and cause death. That’s why dogs have to be kept quiet during the treatment and then for several months afterward. Studies have shown that most of the dogs that die after heart worm treatment do so because the owners let them exercise. It’s not due to the drug itself.

Whew, lots of great stuff in our blog today!

The next question asked is if my dog is diagnosed with heart worms, can I just give him his monthly preventative instead of having him go through treatment? Won’t that kill his heart worms?

Studies have shown that if you use ivermectin, the common preventative, on a monthly basis in a dog with heart worm disease, after about two years you’ll kill off most of the dog’s young heart worms. The problem is, in the meantime, all of those heart worms are doing permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels.

But if there’s no way someone can afford the actual treatment, at least using the preventative on a monthly basis could be a lesser alternative.

Oh and this is bery bery important!  The American Heart worm Society recommends year-round heart worm prevention. One reason is, there’s already a serious problem with people forgetting to give their dogs the heart worm preventatives. It’s a universal problem. Now if you use it year-round, and you miss a month, your dog will probably still be protected. But if you miss more than one or two months your dog could become infected.

The other reason not to stop is that many of the preventatives today also include an intestinal parasite control for roundworms, whip worms, or tapeworms. You want your dog to be protected against those at all times.

The other thing to realize is if you don’t treat dogs with heart worms, they stands a good chance of dying from the disease.

There have been improvements to treating heart worms. At one time plain arsenic was used to treat it, which had many side effects. What is used now is a safer product with fewer side effects. It’s a safe product if used correctly.

Also, it is also bery important to know that if we get heart worm, and is treated for them, we can  get them again. This is why prevention is so important. 

Here is a link where the information was collected and shared with you all. 

http://www.medicinenet.com/pets/dog-health/heartworms_in_dogs.htm

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