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Heartworms in Dogs Demystified

Dog covered in mosquitos

Dogs commonly get heartworms from mosquitos, carriers of the parasite.

As we make the transition from cold to warmer weather we begin to notice some changes around us. Snow begins to melt, trees begin to blossom from dull dormancy to vibrant color, and it starts to get a little warmer outside.

With the rise in temperature comes a rise in concern about canine heartworm infection. Here are some of the basic things you should know about heartworms:

What are Heartworms?

A heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that, despite the name, typically makes its home in the lung tissue. While other animals can be hosts for heartworms, including foxes, ferrets, wolves, coyote, cats, and even humans (extremely rare), dogs are by far the most common. Many dogs will not show any symptoms of infection but those that do can exhibit shortness of breath, cough (and sometimes, coughing up blood), and weight loss.

How do you get them?

A vector is defined as an agent responsible for transmitting an infectious pathogen to another living organism. In this instance, the vector for heartworms is the mosquito.

While mosquitos are found in almost all parts of the world, they are most common in warm climates and are known for spreading several diseases. The United States is among the most highly impacted areas due to our wide range of temperate climates.

Heartworm Prevention

It is much easier to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it once your pet has contracted the disease. In my other article on Holistic Heartworm Prevention That Works, I explore natural ways to help prevention.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing heartworm infection is something that can be done by a veterinarian. This is commonly done through microfilarial detection or antigen testing. Once that has been completed and an infection has been detected, treatment options may vary.

One of the first things your vet will do is to run a few more tests to determine the functionality of the liver, kidney, and heart. There are several courses of action that may be taken at this point, depending on your dog’s specific stage of infection and condition.

Heartworms are by no means the death sentence that they were once thought to be. The condition is very treatable so if you suspect that your dog may be infected, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Until next time…Happy BARFing!


Evan Price is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. He is a true dog lover at heart with a particular interest in Daschunds. Evan is also an avid sports enthusiast and bridge player. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet weekly e-zine at www.barfworld.com.

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