The faces of heartworm disease - you can help
Testing positive for Heartworm Disease most times leaves a dog at an animal shelter with very few options. Most shelters can't afford $200-$400 or have the 4-8 weeks to treat them. Jefferson County Humane Society is committed to saving these otherwise disposed of dogs. With the aid of benevolent donors we've been able to help heartworm positive dogs such as Jackson, Latin, Flash, Rufus, Hans, Tiger, Pepper, Hewitt, Bongo and others yet to come. Please consider a donation to assist with the treatment of our heartworm postive dogs.
What is Heartworm Disease
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and (in rare instances) humans. Heartworms are classified as nematodes (roundworms) and are filarids, one of many species of roundworms. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection.
How Heartworms Happen
First, adult female heartworms release their young, called microfilariae, into an animal's bloodstream. Then, mosquitoes become infected with microfilariae while taking blood meal from the infected animal. During the next 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. After that, the mosquito bites another dog, cat or other susceptible animal, and the infective larvae enter through the bite wound. It then takes a little over 6 months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms. In dogs, the worms may live for up to 7 years. Microfilariae cannot mature into adult heartworms without first passing through a mosquito.
Where is Heartworm Disease Found
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. This map shows particularly endemic areas based on the number of reported cases by clinics.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
Testing for Heartworm
Heartworm infection in apparently healthy animals is usually detected with blood tests for a heartworm substance called an "antigen" or microfilariae, although neither test is consistently positive until about seven months after infection has occurred. Heartworm infection may also occasionally be detected through ultrasound and/or x-ray images of the heart and lungs, although these tests are usually used in animals already known to be infected.
Usually, all but the most advanced cases of heartworm disease can be successfully treated in dogs. Adult heartworms in dogs are killed using a drug called an adulticide that is injected into the muscle through a series of treatments. Treatment may be administered on an outpatient basis, but hospitalization is usually recommended. When the dog is sent home, exercise should be limited to leash walking for the duration of the recovery period, which can last from one to two months. This decreases the risk of partial or complete blockage of blood flow through the lungs by dead worms.
More indepth information about the cause, symptoms, testing, treatment and prevention of Heartworm Disease in dogs and cats can be found at HeartwormSociety.org.
* all information in this article provided by HeartwormSociety.org
Jefferson County Humane Society ~ 15295 K-4 Highway ~ Valley Falls, KS 66088 ~ 785-945-6600 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org