When battling with mosquitoes each summer to kill and repel them off yourself to protect your skin from itching and possibly getting a mosquito-borne disease you may have missed the fact that your dog can also get mosquito bites. Although the fur of a dog can make it much more difficult for a mosquito to bite trough, there are some areas of a dog that are not covered by fur and can be easily accessed by a mosquito, such as nose and ears. So yes, mosquitoes indeed bite our dogs, cats and many other animals, similar as they bite humans, and same as this small insect can be deadly to humans, it can also be deadly to our beloved pets – dogs and cats.
As we know, mosquitoes are carriers of multiple diseases and viruses that can be harmful to human organism such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, west nile virus and other diseases. But most of us don’t know that mosquitoes also transfer bacterias that are very harmful to pets, more specifically parasites called Dirofilaria immitis, which are heartworms that can affect heart and lungs of a dog. This is a very dangerous parasite, which is transferred from an infected dog to another, healthy one with mosquitos. Heartworm then lives and reproduces inside the lungs, heart and blood vessels, causing many problems to the health of a dog, which can even result in death if the disease is not being treated. The worst part is that there isn’t a vaccine that would provide a full time protection against these heartworms, so the only way to prevent this parasite is to protect your pet from mosquitoes using the most effective mosquito control methods and to regularly give pet a preventative medication.
Symptoms of heartworm
At first few months the symptoms of a heartworm may not be visible at all and they may not even show into the blood tests. After some time some symptoms of an infection may start to become visible, such as coughing and weakness after a short exercise, which had not be seen previously. When such symptoms are visible, the heartworm disease should also come up in the blood test. At last, a dog may experience symptoms as hard breathing, frequent coughing and coughing out blood, becoming tired very fast, pneumonia and fainting.
Treatment of heartworm
The treatment of heartworm can be successful and it is in most cases. As with most diseases, it is important in which stage the disease is diagnosed and how fast it is being treated. If the disease is not being treated, the symptoms may become much more serious, which may lead to death. When you have any doubts that your dog has got a heartworm disease, immediately take your pet to a vet, so it can perform further investigations. Depending on the stage of the heartworm different methods may be used to set the diagnosis, for example blood tests and x-rays are two of these methods. Also, if the disease is found in later stages the treatment will be pretty heavy and may take months for a dog to fully recover from the disease.
Heartworm mostly is treated in two stage, in one eliminating the adult heartworms that live in the heart and lungs of a dog, and in other stage eliminating microfilaria, which can develop into adult heartworms, from the blood of a dog. To kill adult heartworms series of injections are given to a dog containing medicine called immiticide, which also contain an arsenic-based substances. You have probably heard about dangers that the chemical element – arsenic can pose to a living organism. Some side effects may occur when using such medicine, although today, if used correctly, this arsenic-based medicine won’t cause any additional symptoms to the dog. Dogs will receive a total of 3 injections of immiticide, after which the dog much rest during certain period of time, as the medicine kills adult heartworms and they must be safely expelled from the organism of a dog. No exercise period is very important while treating this disease, and failing to keep the dog calm and rested may have worse consequences in form of a death.
To get rid of microfilaria the same medicine as for preventative treatment is used, which slowly kills microfilaria that lives in the blood vessels of a dog.
The last step to eliminate heartworm if everything else has failed is to perform a surgery and remove worms directly from the heart of a dog. This is a very dangerous operation that is performed only if the dog would otherwise die.
The best way to save your dog from heartworm disease is by using a preventative medication, which is much safer, faster and cheaper than treating a dog after it has beed infected.
Prevention of heartworm disease
Prevention of heartworm parasites is the most effective way to protect your dog, because after the dog is infected, the curing of infection will cost a lot more effort and time. There are different ways to prevent heartworm infection from a dog or a cat. The first obvious step would be to fight mosquitoes directly by using mosquito control methods. You can start by locating all standing water around your backyard which are the breeding areas for mosquitoes. You can use devices such as mosquito traps and mosquito foggers to reduce an overall mosquito population in your yard and repellents to repel insects away for limited amount of time. For mosquito free indoor time use mosquito nets on your doors and windows, which will keep majority of the mosquitoes from flying inside your house. These simple but effective steps will benefit not only your pets but also yourself, as you will have a much more pleasant, mosquito free outdoors time.
When talking about direct prevention of heartworm there are much stricter ways to protect your pets, because only a single mosquito can transfer microfilaria from an infected dog that will develop into a heartworm in the blood vessels of another dog. There are couple of preventive medicines such as shots and pills that must be taken monthly. This medicine must be given at certain periods and it is very important not to skip a shot or a pill. These preventive medications will work on heartworm in development stage by killing it before it has developed into an adult heartworm, this is why it is important to take the medicine at certain periods depending on what type of medicine is used. These medicines will also protect your animal from fleas and other parasites. The preventative medicine will cost below 100 dollars a year depending on the size of a dog and the medicine being used. Some of the most popular type of medication used for heartworm prevention are Ivermectin, Moxidectin and Selamectin.