Heartworm disease can be fatal for some dogs

Published 5:04 am Monday, March 13, 2023

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease caused by a parasitic worm that is transmitted by mosquitoes.
The worms grow and live in the heart and lungs of infected dogs, causing significant damage over time.
It is a disease that can be easily prevented but unfortunately, it continues to affect thousands of dogs every year.
Recently, I had a case of heartworm disease in a one-year-old Golden Retriever named Max.
Max’s owners brought him in because they noticed that he had been losing weight despite a healthy appetite.
As a veterinarian, I suspected heartworms as a possible cause and performed a blood test and a chest x-ray, which confirmed the presence of heartworms.
However, weight loss is not the only symptom of heartworm disease.
Dogs with heartworms may also exhibit coughing, lethargy, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing.
In severe cases, dogs may experience heart failure, which can be fatal.
Max’s owners were surprised and concerned to hear about heartworm disease.
They had not been diligent in administering preventative medication to Max, as they were unaware of the severity of the disease in their area.
I took the time to explain the seriousness of the disease and the treatment options available to them.
The treatment for heartworm disease is a multi-step process that involves killing the adult worms in the heart and lungs, as well as the immature worms in the bloodstream.
Despite weight loss being a non-specific symptom of heartworm disease, it can occur in some cases.
In Max’s case, we started him on a course of antibiotics and steroids to prepare his body for the heartworm treatment.
The actual treatment involves a series of injections that are given over several weeks.
Max handled the injections well, but he became increasingly lethargic and uncomfortable as the worms began to die off.
During the confinement period, Max’s owners were diligent in keeping him calm and quiet, which helped to prevent any serious complications.
It was a challenging time for both Max and his owners, but they persevered, and Max made a full recovery.
His weight loss stopped, and he returned to his happy and energetic self.
Max’s story is a reminder of the devastating impact that heartworm disease can have on dogs.
The disease can cause irreversible damage to the heart and lungs, and if left untreated, it can be fatal.
Coughing, lethargy, decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, and weight loss are some of the signs of heartworm disease that owners should look out for.
Preventative medication is typically administered on a monthly basis and is highly effective at preventing heartworm disease.
It’s important to start preventative medication when a dog is young, and to continue administering it throughout their lifetime.
Regular heartworm testing is also essential to catch the disease early and begin treatment as soon as possible.
As a veterinarian, I urge all dog owners to take heartworm disease seriously and to take the necessary steps to protect their pets.
Prevention is key, and it’s much easier and less expensive to prevent heartworm disease than it is to treat it.
With a little effort and diligence, we can keep our furry friends safe from this preventable disease.
In conclusion, heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects thousands of dogs every year.
Weight loss, coughing, lethargy, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing are some of the signs of heartworm disease that owners should look out for.
Preventative medication and regular heartworm testing can help keep our furry friends safe from this preventable disease.
If you suspect that your dog may have heartworms, I urge you to seek veterinary care immediately.
Early detection and treatment can make all the difference in your dog’s recovery.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566

Email newsletter signup