A recent hotspot for heartworm antigen-positive dogs and microfilaria-positive dogs was detected in Queensland. Dirofilaria immitis or ‘heartworm’ in dogs is considered endemic to Australia, however, the clinical heartworm disease caused by heartworm is considered to be rare, and prevalence is generally assumed to be low by vets.
Mainstream prevention is based on ML (macrocyclic lactone) administration. However, a localised increase in the area of the study confirms canine heartworm endemism in Australia, and that ongoing vigilance is required through annual testing to understand changing distribution of the disease and to help detect any changes in susceptibility to ML.
What Is Canine Heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasite transferred to dogs by an infected mosquito that injects a larva stage worm under the skin of a dog. For approximately 6 months the larvae mature in the dog’s organs before travelling through the body to the blood vessels of the lungs and the heart.
Adult worms produce baby heartworms (microfilaria) where they are drawn up by a feeding mosquito. When the infected mosquito bites another dog, the cycle continues again and again.
What Are The Symptoms Of Canine Heartworm?
Heartworm is a slow-onset disease that can take months or even years before any symptoms are experienced. By this time the dog has a large heartworm burden. Symptoms are often subtle and hard to detect and therefore prevention is the best way to avoid this serious disease.
Heartworm can put the heart under immense strain, causing it to become enlarged and exhausted. An abundance of worms can create blood flow turbulence and interfere with the heart valves. It can also block the blood vessels that lead to the lungs causing great strain to the respiratory system.
Early signs of heartworm infestation include loss of stamina, shortness of breath, and a dry, nagging cough. As the disease progresses, the dog will lose its appetite, lose weight, and become more lethargic.
Breathing will become more difficult and in extreme cases, the dog’s abdomen will swell up from retained fluid. Treatment may be difficult and not without potential risk, but if left untreated, canine heartworm is nearly always fatal.
How Can You Prevent Heartworm?
Heartworm can be detected by a simple blood test. Regular heartworm medication combined with regular vet check-ups is the best form of heartworm control. It has been concluded that there is a higher potential for heartworm wherever there is a mosquito problem. Ongoing studies by experts help to inform us about canine heartworm infection in pets and currently available information assists in the prevention and treatment of this disease.
As some treatment options can have serious side effects and allergic reactions to certain treatments have been identified, the best course of action is prevention. Keep your dog up to date on heartworm prevention medication, especially in areas where mosquitoes are a problem.
If you have a dog as a family pet and are looking for trustworthy and reliable veterinarian services, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at 313 Vets. At 313 Vets, we provide the following services for not just dogs, but for all family pets. Our services include:
- Home Visits
- Desexing & Surgery
- Dental Care
- X-Ray & Pathology
- Hospital Care
- Training & Behavioural Advice
- Palliative Care
- After Hours Access
For all these services and more, please call us today at 313 Vets on 98134755 or feel free to leave an enquiry.