Friday, August 26, 2011

4 Tips on Protecting Doggy from Heartworms

A couple of months ago, two of my dogs died because of heartworms. It broke my heart because I had no idea what it was until the second dog died.

The week before Twitch died, my sister had called about Goo (the sister of Twitch) who had just died that day- wailing in pain and after some while just dropping dead with blood coming out of her orifices. A week later, Goo had problems breathing and was heaving heavily. It was obvious that she was in pain but I did not know what to do with her as I didn't have any idea of what she was feeling. That night, I prayed that she would at least live another day so we can go to a vet, but it was futile. Thirty minutes later the inevitable happened. She sprawled to the ground without even making a sound and blood came out of her mouth.

I have other dogs aside from this Twitch under my care, so I took immediate precaution by bringing all of them to the veterinarian. She confirmed that heartworms were the obvious culprit but she could not confirm it because I did not bring Twitch for an autopsy.

So I dedicate this Q & A for pet lovers whose pets may have died due to this disease and hopefully to educated those who aren't aware yet.

What are heartworms?

Heartworms is also known as Dirofilaria immitis. They spend their adult life in the heart and large vessels connecting the heart to the lungs of dogs.


Where can heartworms come from?

There are more than 60 types of mosquitoes that can transmit heartworm larvae to our pets. Heartworms usually come from bites of mosquitoes that not only irritate our pet's skin, infect them with heartworms especially when they aren't vaccinated yet. In my country, mosquitoes are prevalent and the only way to increase the dog's immunity to this kind of problem is medication or vaccination.

Can humans get heartworms from mosquito bites?

Yes, they can. However, since humans have different immune systems compared to dogs, they are rarely cases of the worms propagating into our system. The usually die without further causing damage.

In some cases when one or more worms survive, they tend to migrate into the lungs or the heart. But they eventually die, unfortunately resulting to lesions, granulomas or nodes. This condition is called human pulmonary dirofilariasis, or HPD. Symptoms may include chronic cough, fever, fatigue or chest pain.

What are the symptoms that appear when a dog has heartworms?

These symptoms may appear early onset or not at all. My dog did not show these symptoms until hours before her death, so it's always better to just prevent it rather than wait for the worst case scenario to happen.

  1. Rapid Breathing
  2. Fatigue
  3. Coughing

How long can heartworms stay in the dogs body before it does its most damage?

The heartworm can travel to the heart withing a span of 3 months. In about 7 months after the infection, the heartworm's life cycle is done (which means it had fully developed, mated and lay microfilariae. For cats it takes 8 months for heartworms to complete these.

Here is a graphical description of a heartworms life cycle.


Can I be infected with heartworms if I touch an infected animal?

No. Heartworms cannot be transmitted any other way except through mosquito bites from an infected animal.

How can I protect my pet from heartworm infections?

1. Prevention is better than cure. Vaccination for heartworms are included in a dog's standard immunization regimen. So don't forget to visit a vet once you get a new puppy or dog. They usually recommend you to take the visit the moment a puppy is within 2 to 3 weeks of age. Heartworm prevention medication may come as a pill that is taken once a month (or daily) or as an injection.

It doesn't matter where your dog stays, inside or outside the house. It's always better to give them hearworm vaccination as a precaution.

2. Do the test. Vets always recommend that our pets be tested annually for heartworms.

And if your dog had the symptoms of a heartworm infection, never forget to have the vet test him because preventive heartworm medication may worsen his condition rather than make him better. Early onset of an infection is easier treated than later stages.

In treating a heartworm infection (NOT PREVENTION),Melarsomine (Immiticide®) is used. This medication contains arsenic which makes it more dangerous than the disease.

3. Shield the fortress. If your dog lives inside the house, you might as well place aluminum screens or snug screens to protect you and your pal from mosquito bites.

4. Lure and kill. In Asian countries , a mosquito trap is the most viable means of killing them before they do any damage.

US citizens prefer using a more organic approach of killing this pesky fiends. While creating a house for a purple martin bird may be time, effort and financially consuming, you will never regret doing so as they consider mosquitoes their dinner. You may have just saved your pets life by lowering the mosquito population in your backyard.


I hope this article has helped in informing you more about heartworms. Nobody deserves to experience the pain of losing a pet just because of not knowing what to do. Be informed, it may be what saves your pets someday.

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