Dirofilaria immitis is a parasite that causes heartworm disease in dogs. It is a serious illness that affects a pet’s lungs, heart, and blood vessels. The condition can lead to lung disease, heart failure, and even death if you do not seek proper treatment.
Heartworms are parasites that develop from larvae into adults in your pet’s body. According to animal experts, heartworms can live up to 7 years inside your dog’s body. They can grow up to 12 inches long in females and 6 inches in males.
Heartworm disease spreads when a mosquito carrying the infection bites your dog. The bite leaves behind microfilariae, which grow to become larvae and eventually heartworms. After the female heartworm mates with a male, it releases its offspring into your pet’s bloodstream. This continues the lifecycle of the heartworm. Luckily, this disease is not contagious.
Some of the signs that your dog may have heartworms include:
You need to pay attention to the energy levels of your dog. If your dog suddenly avoids physical activities, refuses to go outside, or sleeps more than usual, your dog may be sick. A dog with a heartworm infection seems weaker and finds it difficult to remain active, even when performing simple activities.
An adult heartworm infection can make your dog’s ribcage seem to protrude and give its chest a bulging appearance. These symptoms are the result of fluid buildup, anorexia, or weight loss.
Though more common in cats, dogs may also exhibit allergic reactions. The allergic reactions are asthmatic symptoms that occur in response to heartworm infection.
When the heartworms make their way into your dog’s lungs, they will start multiplying there and in the surrounding blood vessels. This makes the dog develop a dry, unproductive cough. The cough might even make the dog faint after some slight exercise.
Later stages of heartworm infections make eating and other light tasks difficult for your pet. Once you notice the lack of appetite and weight loss, book an appointment with your vet immediately. The vet may help treat or rule out heartworms and other diseases.
Once the heartworms make their way into your dog’s lungs and surrounding veins, respiratory issues will ensue. This starts with coughing, as fluids build up in the blood vessels around the lungs. This makes it difficult for the dog’s lungs to oxygenate its blood. As a result, your dog develops shallow rapid breathing.
When several heartworms invade your dog’s heart, they cause a blockage of blood flow or vena cava syndrome. This causes the dog to faint. Collapsing usually happens due to shock and the destruction of red blood cells. This is a sign of a late-stage infection, and death may follow soon.
Heartworms can also cause high blood pressure, nose bleeding, blindness, seizures, lameness, and secondary pneumonia. Blindness, seizures, and lameness happen when the heartworms end up in organs other than the lungs or heart. Some of these symptoms may also be signs of other diseases.
To learn more about heartworms in dogs, visit Community Pet Outreach in Lewisville, Texas at (972) 848-8930 to book an appointment today!