What is canine heart-worm disease?

Canine heartworm disease (CHD) is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms (Dirofilaria immitis) living in the vessels of a dog’s lungs, and occasionally in the right side of its heart. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected with heart-worm larvae while sucking blood from an infected dog.

CHD is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites a dog. Heartworm larvae are then deposited in the dog’s skin, and they actively migrate from the skin into the bloodstream of the dog – eventually ending up in the arteries of its lungs. In the dog, the larvae progress in their development to an adult form of the worm, and live in the vessels of the dog’s lungs, where they continue their life cycle and cause extensive injury. Almost 100 percent of dogs that are exposed to infective heartworm larvae via mosquito bites are susceptible to becoming infected with adult heartworms.

However, CHD is preventable. It is recommended that dog owners take steps to speak with their veterinarian about how to best protect their pets from this dangerous disease.
Remember, speak to your vet before starting your dog on a prevention regimen. Giving heartworm preventives to dogs already infected with heartworm can lead to rare but possibly severe reactions that could be harmful or even fatal to your dog.

* Article is extracted from The Sunday Times Pet Corner section.

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