Heartworm infection in dogs is becoming more common in many parts of the United States. Currently, one of the largest concerns is the lack of available Immiticide®, the only currently approved treatment for heartworm infections. This makes prevention even more important. For the best protection it is essential to understand what it is and how it in contracted.
Heartworm is, in fact, just as it sounds, a worm, a parasite that lives in the heart. Dirofilaira Immitis is the scientific name of the worms that grow into a 9 -16 inch worm. These worms live in the chambers of the heart (primarily the right ventricle) and the nearby pulmonary artery. Due to their length the bodies extend through the valves prohibiting proper closure as blood is pumped through. Over time, this action will cause permanent damage to your dog’s heart and possibly lungs. Symptoms vary from dog to dog but, commonly coughing and shortness of breath are the first to appear. Other organs such as the liver and kidneys can also be affected. Once the symptoms have appeared it may be too late for treatment. If left untreated heartworm disease can be fatal.
As the snow melts and the temperature rises, ticks become more active. Ticks remain alive through the winter, when the temperatures reach 40°F and above they become active again. Ticks are small blood sucking parasites that feed on both animals and humans. Their lifecycle is complex and involves one or more species of animals as hosts. A full blood meal for a tick can take 4-5 days, once full they drop off. While tick does drop off when full, disease can be spread in less than 24 hours. Ticks carry a number of serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Erlichia Canis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
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