Heartworms: The Preventable Killer

CHAH Updates

Heartworm
disease is known as a silent killer.  It is spread from mosquito bites and
with the mosquito burden in Houston, animals not on prevention are high
risk.  It can take months before your dog
shows symptoms. In the early stages of infection most dogs show little to no
symptoms at all and the more the disease progresses, the more dangerous it
becomes. Here are a few signs to watch for and have addressed immediately by
your veterinarian. 

A dry unproductive cough. Heartworms can make their
way into the lungs and surrounding veins, where they will reproduce!   Your dog could begin exhibiting a dry cough, especially
after exercising.

Lethargy.  Dogs with heartworm disease
will feel weaker and find it harder to remain active, even in low-energy
activities.

Weight loss and Anorexia. 

Abnormal Respirations.  Especially if there are increased
respirations at rest or when does not seem to match activity level.

Fluid Retention.  The
chest and/or abdomen can become filled with fluid in more severe cases of
heartworm disease.  If fluid is in the
chest, you will see respiratory distress. 
If enough fluid is in the abdomen, it will have a distended
appearance.   

Collapsing or fainting. Caval syndrome happens when a large number of heartworms are present in the right heart. The worm mass interferes with closure of the tricuspid valve and impedes normal flow of blood through the right heart.  This leads to cardiovascular collapse and is rapidly fatal.

There are two types of Heartworm treatments: Slow-Kill Method and Immiticide Injections. During the slow-kill method the pet is placed on prevention and the heartworms are allowed to just die off. This is only utilized when the risk of Immiticide injections outweighs the benefits. Immiticide Treatment is currently the standard treatment for heartworm disease. A series of injections are given that kill off the adult worms in the body. Please view the video below to see how immiticide injections are administered.

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