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Heartworm Disease in Dogs and How to Prevent it

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Canine heartworm disease is caused by transmission of an internal parasite (Dirofilaria immitis) by a mosquito (Culex pipiens). The other name for this condition, “heartworm disease,” suggests the impact of heartworm disease.

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm is a heart disease in dogs that can be found all over the world, in tropical areas but also in certain areas with a temperate climate. Southern Europe is concerned especially the Mediterranean coast and northern Italy. There are also some cases in the Dombes for example.

This disease is caused by a roundworm, Dirofilaria immitis, which parasitizes the dog’s heart. This worm is transmitted to the dog by the bite of certain mosquitoes. Following the bite of an infected mosquito, a larva (microfilaria) penetrates under the dog’s skin and evolves, then migrates to the heart as an adult and settles in the pulmonary arteries.

They will thus interfere with the functioning of the heart and lead in the long term, or, in the event of massive infestation, a severe hemolytic syndrome which is urgent or even an obstruction of the vena cava.

What are the signs of the disease?

The signs usually appear several months after the infective bite, or even years afterwards. It results in heart (right heart failure) and respiratory problems: cough, breathing difficulties, fatigue, syncope on exertion, weight loss and muscle wasting, abdominal and sometimes chest effusion, kidney problems

Vena cava syndrome is a particularly serious form of the disease, when the infestation is massive. The signs are varied: anorexia, lethargy, weakness, jaundice (jaundice) or pale mucous membranes, hemoglobinuria (dark urine), tachycardia.

The diagnosis is made according to clinical signs, results of blood tests and the epidemiological context. The veterinarian can also look for micro-filaria in the blood or do a serological test.

Is this disease serious?

This disease is very serious if the signs are already advanced, and the sequelae are significant even if treatment is successful.

There are treatments to eliminate these worms, but they are not without danger, because the destruction of the worms leads to reactions of the body: fatigue, anorexia, fever, cough, risk of thrombosis. In addition, the injections are painful and can lead to local problems.

The treated animal should remain at as much rest as possible for at least a month or more.

How to protect my companion?

As this disease is potentially very serious and slowly progressing, it is best to prevent it. For this, precautions are necessary:

  • avoid twilight outings in contaminated areas
  • avoid marshes and other wet places if possible, especially at nightfall
  • put mosquito nets on windows

The best way is, however, prophylactic treatment: the veterinarian can prescribe a preventive medication before going on vacation in the Mediterranean or in the tropics. These are tablets that protect your pet for a month. They must be taken before departure and continued treatment one month after return. Do not hesitate to talk to him about it.

Know that the Scalibor collar protects your companion from the bites of certain mosquitoes, including Culex pipiens, against which it is effective for 6 months!

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