As their name aptly suggests, heart worms are a type of round worms that infect a wide variety of mammals when they come in contact with their heart arteries. Cats, foxes, ferrets, and dogs are the most susceptible species to this ailment, which is passed on by mosquito bites.
Dogs are considered to be the host of this easily transmitted disease, which takes about six months to develop after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the bacteria. After the heart worms have fully developed, they can live in a dog’s vital arteries for up to five to seven years, and may even lead to death if not treated properly.
A common misconception many people think to be true is that these mosquitoes are only present in certain regions and climates of the world; therefore, their dog is not necessarily at risk of becoming infected. This is certainly not true, as heartworm-carrying mosquitoes can spread rapidly. In fact, according to the American Heartworm Society, they are present in all 50 states and even more prominent in the southeastern states.
The main symptoms of heart worms in dogs can be seen through the loss of appetite, excessive coughing, unwillingness to exercise and apparent weight loss. However, the symptoms of heart worm disease can sometimes be subtle, highlighting the need to know how to prevent it and treat it.
The good news about this rather unfortunate disease is that it is easily preventable, as there are different preventive medications specialized for combatting heart worm. These can come in the form of topical ointments or chewable pills, but it is always best to consult with a veterinarian what is best for your dog. It is always good to take your dog to the veterinarian and have him or her regularly checked, in case there are any illnesses or harmful bacteria in your dog’s system.