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When we come home every day, we expect to be met with a whine, whimper and joyful bark. Our pooch is pleased to see us arrive back home and wants to know what we’ve been up to. What we don’t expect to see is our furry friend, lying down not paying attention to what’s going on around him. It’s very unusual to not see your pet, full of excitement and energy, knowing that once you’re home, it’s time for a walk and then dinner.
One of the reasons why this could be is because he has heartworm. It’s not as scary as you might think it sounds because it can be combated and it usually isn’t fatal if you catch it early. Luckily heartworm is not found in the UK, but it is a risk for dogs that travel abroad.
How do they get it?
Your dog can only receive heartworm, from a bite of a mosquito. Heartworms are very thin and miniature in size, which is why their actions take a bit of time to be noticed.
A mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae will transfer them to your dog, and they are so small that they generally don’t feel them hatching and manoeuvring to the heart, which is where they live.
It takes around 5-8 months for the larvae to grow into adults and they will live for around 5-7 years. They will multiply while in your dog and can reach numbers in the low hundreds.
Signs he has a heartworm
One of the clearest signs your dog has heartworm is when he no longer seems to have any energy. He’s lethargic, moping around, doesn’t want to run and even has trouble paying attention to what you’re doing.
The other sign is weight loss. As you can imagine, worms in your dog’s heart will make him feel tired and not in the mood to do pretty much anything. This can result in going off their appetite and hence, they begin to lose muscle mass and weight.
Difficulty breathing and a persistent cough are the other signs your dog may have heartworms. Due to the heart being strained, he is unable to take in deep breaths or maintain a regular heart rate.
Coughing is a sign of respiratory irritation, which the parasitic heartworms will cause when they are feeding on your dog from the inside.
Bulging ribs are another sign as the heart may become larger due to the size and number of worms inside the heart. If you can see your dog hasn’t lost a lot of mass but you can still see his ribs, this is a definite sign.
What’s the treatment?
The do will need treatment of a heartworm infestation using an anti-parasitic to kill the worms.
Some dogs may have to have the worms surgically removed if there is a large infestation and unfortunately the prognosis for these cases is poor.