Heartworm disease is caused by internal parasitic roundworms called dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm disease has been present since the earlier times and it has been prevalent mostly in the US, Canada, Alaska, along Gulf Coast and Mississippi River. Among the 30 species of animals, domestic and wild, dogs are the most common host of heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is fatal to the host as it affects the host’s heart and lungs as well as contributing secondary effects to the other vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. According to studies, this canine heartworm disease is passed on from one infected host to another animal through mosquito bites. The infected animal that has microfilariae in the blood will be ingested by the mosquito which in turn will grow into a larvae or young worms and will stay in the mouth of the mosquito until it sucks another blood of another animal. The larvae in the mouth will then leave the mosquito and enters the skin and muscles of the animal. Once it made its way inside, it will go to the right side of the heart of the host and will grow there until they have matured and become adult worms. The microfilariae are the eggs of the female adult worms. Mosquitoes are needed by these heartworms to survive as they are the ones passing on the disease especially during peak season. Dogs that are prone to such heartworm infection are those in between their three to eight years.
Symptoms of heartworm include intolerance to tiring activities, exhaustion, cough, coughing up blood, jaundice, and emaciated. Dogs may likewise experience a short loss of consciousness or they may become disoriented after an exhausting activity. When dogs exhibit these physical characteristics, it is advised that they see a veterinarian to detect if the heartworm disease is in its onset or is a serious problem already. Treatment of this may be through surgery but only when the veterinarian warrants it. However, chemical therapy is commonly done to gradually kill the adult worms. Although the drug used in this is very toxic, the dead worms may not be easily flushed out as they may actually cause blockage to the openings of the blood vessels and pulmonary artery of the lungs of the dog risking the dog’s life as well. Hence, it is through this reason that veterinarians perform this procedure to take care of the dog’s life too.
Adult worms especially when they are in great number could irritate the walls of the pulmonary artery of the lungs. This irritation will thicken and roughen the internal parts of the artery causing blood clot which will increase pressure and initiate back pressure to the lungs resulting to abnormal blood circulation affecting the liver and kidneys and other major organs. The kidney may also be affected because of the complexities in the immune system of the host as the worms produce proteins while the host’s bodies produce antibodies to fight against it.
Heartworm disease is a parasitic roundworm that develops inside the right side of the heart. These worms damage it and lessen the efficiency of the lungs and liver amongst the other vital organs of the body.