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What Is Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

mosquito on a green leaf

Mosquitoes don’t just bite humans; they could cause heartworm disease in your dog!

If you have spent any time studying how to care for your pet dog’s health medically, you likely have come across the warnings against tick bites, which can cause Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and heartworm disease. What is heartworm disease in dogs? If you own a canine pet in Maryland, here’s what you should know.

How Mosquito Bites Could Affect Your Dog

Did you know that mosquito bites are what cause heartworm disease in dogs? The humble mosquito is a vessel in which heartworm eggs can travel from host to host. 

Certain animals are more suitable for this parasite; cats and human beings can have heartworms, but the larvae almost always die before reaching adulthood because of their natural immune system. On the other hand, dogs, foxes, coyotes, etc., are perfect hosts for heartworms, and thus spread among these animals through mosquito bites.

How exactly does it work? A mature female heartworm will lay eggs in the host. A mosquito will ingest heartworm eggs when taking a blood meal from a host animal. When the mosquito bites another being, the eggs will transfer onto its skin and into the new host through the bite wound.

Heartworm Disease Symptoms in Dogs

What effect does this have on your pet dog? Heartworm disease usually has little to no symptoms in the early stages, but as it progresses, symptoms could appear gradually or suddenly. Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs include:

  • Resistance to exercise
  • Fatigue after short exercise
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Mild, ongoing cough
  • Cardiovascular collapse

The cardiovascular collapse happens when many small worms clog and swell the bloodstream or some grow into maturity. It is known as caval syndrome, which shows through pale gums, labored breathing, and dark or bloody urine.

The general symptoms above could signal any number of health issues, so it is best to confirm with a veterinarian what the real cause is.

What’s the Risk in Maryland?

You can see the general risk or lack thereof for heartworm disease in dogs in Maryland through the American Heartworm Society incidence map. The southern states have it the worst, but Maryland is by no means devoid of cases. Plus, with constant moving between states by mosquitoes, wildlife, and pets, you never know if there could be a case near you.

Heartworm Disease Prevention

Thankfully, heartworm preventative treatments are effective, and your veterinarian can test your pet once a year. Preventative treatments include oral pills, injections, and topical medications. Ask your veterinarian for more information; in the Baltimore area, contact Everhart Veterinary Medicine!

Trust the Care of Your Pet to the Professionals at Everhart Veterinary Medicine!

At Everhart Veterinary Medicine, our veterinary professionals strive to provide your pet with the very best of veterinary care. We believe that the best care for your pet should be provided by experienced, compassionate, and knowledgeable veterinary professionals. With two Maryland locations in both Baltimore and Pasadena, we are always ready to welcome your pet as a new patient! Give us a call today at 410-355-3131 or 410-793-7670! For more information, as well as updates on veterinary news and topics, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 10th, 2023 at 3:11 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.