Heartworm is a prevalent disease in dogs and can be pretty dangerous and possibly not diagnosed early on if you don’t have a dog wellness plan, or don’t often take your dog for routine vet care. It is vital to catch heartworm right away as it can become debilitating for our dogs the longer it goes untreated. The bad news is that many pet parents are not educated on heartworm or know what signs to look for. In this blog, we will talk about all things heartworm and how we can keep our dogs as healthy as possible.

What Is Dog Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is caused when an infected mosquito bites our animals, transmitting a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm disease can affect the dog's heart and lungs, resulting in heart failure or significant internal damage. The parasites will begin to mate with one another inside the dog, resulting in more and more parasites growing.

After exposure, it can take heartworm larvae 6-7 months to mature into a full-grown heartworm. A heartworm's life span within your dog is between 5-7 years, and dogs can home between 15-250 worms inside of their bodies. Male heartworms can reach 4-6 inches, while female heartworms can reach up to 12 inches long.

Heartworm is the most common in dogs along the Atlantic coast, from New Jersey to Mexico, and along the Mississippi River. However, cases of heartworm appear in all 50 states every year. Heartworm is a severe disease and can end up being fatal for our animals when left untreated or unnoticed for too long. This is why heartworm prevention is so important and is covered with Wagmo's pet wellness plans.

What Are Heartworm Symptoms?

Unfortunately, heartworm symptoms are not always super obvious or often invisible. Your dog will usually be acting completely healthy and normal while the parasite is beginning to wreak havoc. Once your dog begins to show the signs of heartworms, the disease might have already started to affect the dog's heart and lungs.

Common signs of heartworm disease in dogs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Sudden death

These symptoms can appear for heartworms and many other diseases, infections, and conditions. If your dog is showing any of the above symptoms, you should take them to your vet for a check-up as soon as possible.

How To Treat Dog Heartworm

Every single dog is at risk for heartworm disease. Since mosquitoes transmit the disease, it can happen anywhere, but the risk is often higher in warmer months when mosquitoes are more prevalent. An innocent walk could turn very dangerous very quickly.

Veterinarians can test for heartworms during routine bloodwork that a dog wellness plan will cover. An antigen test will be able to detect specific proteins that are released by female heartworms. Another blood test can determine if there are microfilariae in the dog's bloodstream. Unfortunately though, neither of these tests will be able to detect heartworms until 5-6 months after the initial bite from the mosquito.

There are prescription medications that can kill adult heartworms inside dogs. Some of these medications need to be injected into the skin, while others can be applied topically to the dog's skin. Treating heartworms can be extremely expensive as the dog will require multiple trips to the veterinarian, lots of blood work, a series of medications and treatments, and often hospital time.

Prevention Is The Best Medicine

The best and most effective way to protect our dogs from heartworms is to give them a heartworm preventative. There are many different types of heartworm preventative now, including topical creams, annual or semi-annual injections, as well as chewable and non-chewable oral medications. These heartworm prevention medications often kill other intestinal worms (hookworms, roundworms) and parasites (fleas, ticks, and ear mites).

Dog wellness plans include routine visits to the veterinarian, routine blood workups, flea and ticks prevention, and heartworm preventative medications. Prevention is really the only way we can truly protect our dogs from getting heartworms. Wagmo pet wellness plans are made for preventative care, ensuring the day-to-day health of our dogs.

Build your perfect pet wellness plan today with Wagmo's coverage quiz! Wagmo dog wellness plans can be customized to ensure the best coverage for your animal that also works within your budget.