When you hear about the subject of worms in dogs, the most common parasite that comes to mind are heartworms. Dogs are considered the ultimate host for heartworms . When a mosquito carrying infective heartworm larvae bites a dog it transmits the infection. The larvae grow and develop into sexually mature males and females that reside in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels.
The male heartworms become four to six inches in length and the females grow to 10-12 inches. They become fully grown about one year after infection, and their life span in dogs appears to average up to five to seven years. The onset and severity of heartworm disease is dependent upon the number of adult heartworms present in the dog, the age of the dog when infected, and the dog’s level of activity. More severe damage to the heart and lungs is found with higher numbers of worms in dogs.
Dangers to The Young Dog
Heartworms, which are considered to be internal parasites, can be more disastrous to your dog’s health than outside parasites, such as ticks and fleas. This is especially true for young puppies who are more susceptible to negative health conditions. And are more active than older dogs. Heartworms multiply more rapidly in active dogs than sedentary dogs. Regions where heartworm disease is common have diagnosed infections in dogs as young as one year of age.
A puppy’s physical developing process can be interrupted from heartworms. And important nutrients from the food a puppy eats can be absorbed by heartworms, instead of being utilized by the dog’s system for growth and good health. Heartworm disease may cause a combination of medical problems in the same dog these include impaired function of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Another important concern to worry about when it comes to these types of worms is if you have children. You should take the extra precaution necessary because certain types of parasites that are found inside puppies and dogs can be transmitted to your kids. As a good rule of thumb, always walk your dog or puppy through clean areas outside and do not let him sniff at any dog poop that is laying around as this can cause transmission of parasites.
Heartworm infection in dogs is widely distributed throughout the United States. It has been found in dogs living in every state of the USA. In most areas, infections are diagnosed between the ages of three and eight years old. There is a higher incidence of heartworm infection from locations with hotter climates with high levels of humidity. Where there is a mosquito there is the possibility of a heartworm infection.
As you can clearly understand by now, it is better to take preventative measures against heartworms rather than discover them after they have already infested your dog. While treatment of canine heartworm disease is usually successful, prevention of the disease is much safer and more economical.
Fortunately, preventative action against heartworms is a very simple procedure. There are a variety of options for preventing these worms in dogs, including monthly tablets, chewables and topicals. These products are extremely effective but, must be administered properly on a timely schedule. Depending on where you live you may need to treat your dog for heartworm year-round.
The American Heartworm Society currently recommends year-round prevention, even in areas where mosquitos are seasonal. Their rational is that most monthly heartworm preventives help prevent other worms in dogs, too. This helps to prevent infection not only for dogs, but for their caregivers as well. Check with your veterinarian regarding local recommendations.