Heartworm disease in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Heartworm disease in dogs should be treated as quickly as possible because in the absence of support, it is generally deadly. At an advanced stage, this cardiovascular pathology due to the invasion of nematode worms is therefore very serious. To save the life of your dog, it is very important to know spot the first symptoms in order to act as quickly as possible. Let’s find out how it manifests, what is the possible treatment and what are the best solutions to prevent heartworm disease in dogs.

Canine heartworm: symptoms to spot urgently

This heart disease is transmitted to the dog by infected mosquito bites speak worm Dirofilaria immitis. It is rife mainly in regions of the world where these mosquitoes – Culex and Anopheles – are particularly present, namely in tropical (DOM-TOM included) and subtropical zones. As for the northern hemisphere, it can experience seasonal peaks, more precisely during the months of July and August for the northernmost regions, and from March to the end of October in the Mediterranean basin. In our latitudes, even dogs that do not live in targeted regions may be more exposed to infection by these worms when they travel with their owner in geographic areas at risk.

The disease sets in fast enough after a mosquito bite. First of all the larvae the worms in question are deposited in this way under the skin of the dog, then grow in size and then begin to migrate to the heart. They then colonize the pulmonary arteries where these parasites can stay for years, possibly leading to the death of their victim.

The heartworm symptoms vary according to the duration of the disease, namely:

  • Firstly:
    • Great fatigue,
    • Cough
    • Weight loss,
    • Ischemic muscle myopathy,
    • Skin manifestations (also possible during the second phase of the disease),
    • Syncope,
    • Lung effusion,
    • Kidney failure with increased creatinine and urea levels,
    • More rarely the disease can manifest itself in an ocular form.
  • In a second time, when heartworm has worsened, the dog unfortunately presents one or more of the following manifestations:
    • Anorexia,
    • A general weakening,
    • Lethargy,
    • Very dark urine,
    • Jaundice (jaundice)
    • A neurological syndrome that can lead to depression, locomotor deficit, coma …
    • Cellar syndrome or intravascular hemolytic syndrome, in cases of massive infestation, which is a serious complication of heartworm disease in dogs. It gives rise to a significant intolerance to exertion, to an acceleration of the heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia) which increases the risk of cardiac arrest.

The higher the number of worms, the more severe the symptoms. Of course, we cannot recommend highly enough urgently consult from the onset of the first symptoms that may lead to the suspicion of heartworm disease. The more responsive the owner of the animal, the more likely he is to save the life of his little companion. What must be avoided at all costs is inflammation of the pulmonary arteries and their obstruction. These parasites should not be allowed time to become adults because when they are numerous, they colonize the heart muscle and destroy red blood cells (red blood cells).

Heartworm disease in dogs: diagnosis and treatment

The diagnostic heartworm disease in dogs requires various investigations through additional examinations such as:

  • A search for biochemical parameters, if only to highlight possible renal damage,
  • Serology,
  • A numbering and a blood count to measure the importance of an inflammatory phenomenon,
  • Pulmonary radiology,
  • An echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).

The treatment heartworm disease in dogs should enable the animal to be treated quickly. To do this, you must:

  • Kill microfilariae (larvae) thanks to anti-parasitic macrocyclic lactone-type drugs, either in oral form or by injection,
  • Kill the wired (or adult worms) by intramuscular injections of Melanasarmine.

This is a risky treatment, since the death of parasites and larvae can lead to a dog cardiovascular failure-like reaction. This is the reason why the animal remains under observation for at least the twelve hours following the administration of these treatments (Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies and the like being particularly sensitive to them).

In some countries, in a dog which presents with vena cava syndrome due to infestation of its heart with a large number of worms, a surgical intervention is sometimes attempted. It is performed under fluoroscopy in order to allow the guidance of a specific forceps introduced through the jugular vein and with which the filariae (worms) are removed. This last chance process is very expensive and involves risks for the animal.

It should be noted that when a heartworm treatment – however effective it may be – intervenes too late, the dog can still die. If he survives the disease, however, he retains serious after-effects.

Prevent heartworm disease to protect your dog’s health

To protect your dog against heartworm disease, you must absolutely avoid letting it wander because it risks coming across contaminated stray dogs by worms. More broadly, to limit the occurrence and proliferation of mosquitoes responsible for contamination, we must all conduct a mosquito control for example by preventing water from stagnating in our saucers, on the balcony or terrace. Finally, preventively treat his dog thanks to pest control products is also a wise solution. Despite all these precautions, heartworm disease in dogs cannot be completely avoided.