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Common Deadly Diseases in Dogs: What You Need to Know About Heartworms

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Dogs are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans, including the common cold, influenza, and rabies. In addition, dogs can also suffer from various other diseases, including parvovirus, distemper, and Lyme disease.

Parvovirus can cause severe gastrointestinal distress in dogs and is often fatal. Distemper is a virus that attacks the respiratory system and can also cause seizures and paralysis. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause joint pain, fever, and fatigue.

These diseases are pretty deadly, especially when not treated properly. However, none of these diseases come close when it comes to heartworms.

Heartworms Among Dogs

Heartworms are a type of parasitic worm that lives in the heart and lungs of dogs. This parasitic worm is named Dirofilaria immitis. These worms are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito bites the dog, injecting the larval stage of the worm into the animal’s bloodstream. The larvae then travel to the heart, where they mature and reproduce.

Heartworms can cause a variety of health problems in dogs. The onset of symptoms includes coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. As the number of worms increases, so do the symptoms. Eventually, heartworms can cause heart failure and death in dogs.

It takes a few months for heartworms to mature, so there is a window of time when they can be detected and treated. However, heartworms will cause serious health problems in dogs if left untreated.

An old dog standing on a field

Diagnosing Heartworms

Diagnosing heartworms can be pretty challenging, even for a veterinarian. Vets can do many different tests to check for heartworms, but the most common is the antigen test.

An antigen test looks for a protein called antigens in the dog’s blood. Antigens are produced by adult female worms and are present in high levels in infected dogs.

However, an antigen test is not always accurate. Sometimes, dogs infected with heartworms will test negative for the disease. The failure of an antigen test is attributed to the level of antigens in the blood can vary depending on the number of worms present. In addition, some dogs will clear the infection on their own without treatment.

If a dog tests positive for heartworms, further testing will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. The next step is usually to take an x-ray of the chest. X-rays can often show the presence of heartworms in the heart and lungs.

Treating Heartworms

There is no cure for heartworms, but there are treatments available to help manage the disease. The goal of treatment is to kill adult worms and prevent further damage to the heart and lungs. The most common treatment for heartworms is called melarsomine.


Melarsomine is an arsenic-based compound that is injected into the dog’s muscles. The injections are given at a certain period, and the number of injections will depend on the severity of the infection.

In some cases, heartworm disease can be fatal. Dogs who are severely infected may need to be hospitalized during treatment. In addition, heartworm treatment is expensive, and it can take several months for a dog to recover from the disease.

Supportive Care

In addition to melarsomine, dogs infected with heartworms will need supportive care. This includes rest, exercise restriction, and a proper diet.

Dogs infected with heartworms will need to be on strict bed rest for at least six weeks. They should not be allowed to exercise during this time, as it can increase the risk of complications.

Diet is also an essential part of treatment for heartworms. Dogs infected with heartworms will need to be fed a high-protein, low-fat diet. This type of diet will help support the dog’s respiratory system and prevent weight gain.

Preventing Heartworms

The best cure for heartworms is to prevent them from infecting your dogs in the first place. And the best way to do this is to get them trained to obey.

Obedience Training

As stated before, the best way to prevent heartworms is to get your dog obedience trained. Obedient dogs are less likely to roam and come in contact with mosquitoes.

Trainer gives the husky dog a reward during training

There are many different types of obedience training available, so you will need to find the best method for you and your dog. One robust approach is enrolling them in a board and train boot camp. These boot camps can last anywhere from two weeks to two months.

Once they come back, your dog will have basic to advanced obedience commands down that will help you keep them from roaming too much, drastically decreasing the chances of getting heartworms.

Preventive Medicine

In addition to obedience training, you can also give your dog preventive medicine. There are many different types of preventative medicine available, but the most common is called ivermectin.


Ivermectin is a medication that is given monthly to prevent heartworms. It works by killing the larvae of heartworms, and it is very effective.

There are many different brands of ivermectin available, and you will need to find one that is right for your dog. Ivermectin is available in both pill and injection forms.

The best way to prevent heartworms is to use a combination of preventive measures. Obedience training, preventive medicine, and mosquito control are essential in preventing heartworms. By doing these things you can keep your dog healthy and safe from heartworms.

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