Veterinarians recommend that all dogs not currently infected with heartworms should be given heartworm pills. In the US alone, cases of heartworm are present in every state, and while there are some treatments, these may not help a dog in advanced stages of the disease. Dogs that are first infected may be completely asymptomatic, but as the disease progresses, their suffering can be intense as the heart and the arteries in their lungs become filled with the worms.
Prior to putting a dog on heartworm pills, the veterinarian will probably perform a test to be certain that the dog is not already infected. Infection occurs through bites from infected mosquitoes. It is a myth that indoor dogs will not get heartworm, or that dogs with shaggy coats are better protected. All dogs can suffer the occasional bite from a mosquito that carries this larvae.
Heartworm pills are fairly easy to take, and relatively inexpensive as pet medicine goes. Some topical treatments also can be used in place of pills and may repel fleas and ticks as well.
Treatment after a dog is infected can be far more expensive. In the US, there is only one heartworm medication approved by the FDA, and it can have negative side effects on the dog. Additionally, treatment does not always result in a cure, especially when the dog’s heart and lungs are significantly damaged. It may be possible to kill the worms, but the damage may be irreparable.
An ounce of prevention in the case of heartworm pills is certainly worth more than its pound of cure. This medication offers that prevention at a bargain price. Dog owners should talk to a veterinarian regarding whether pills, injections, or topical treatments are the best way to go. Some vets will even work with pet owners on limited incomes to make sure that a dog can be given the appropriate treatment.
Those who think heartworm is not a major illness in dogs, can look at autopsy pictures of the swelled hearts of dogs filled to the brim with heartworms. Progressive symptoms can cause cough, swelling of the heart, accumulation of fluid in the stomach, and swelling in the liver. Dogs can lose their appetite, lose significant weight, and may have fainting spells. Occasionally, heartworms migrate to other parts of the body and have affected the brain, the eyes, and the spinal cord.
It seems unnecessarily to allow a dog to undergo these symptoms when prevention through medication is available at a relatively inexpensive price. Pet owners can save dogs significant pain, potentially expensive treatments, and possible early death by using the preventative treatment. They are something all dog owners should seriously commit to, to prevent needless suffering in pets.