What Are Heartworms?
Canine heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the major arteries and in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats, and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and in rare instances humans. Heartworms are classified as nematodes (roundworms). The specific roundworm causing heartworm in dogs and cats is known as Dirofilaria immitis.
Dogs or other animals harboring adult worms are the recognized reservoir of infection. Adult worms produce hundreds of thousands of offspring that circulate in the blood and are then transmitted to mosquitoes once they bite the infected animal. These offspring are called micofilaria. Microfilaria undergo development to an infective larval stage within 14 days in the mosquito and can then be transmitted to another host such as a cat or back to another dog, when the infected mosquito bites again. The infective heartworm larvae travel through a tubular organ within the mosquito's head and are injected into the skin of a new host animal through the mosquito bite wound. In the dog, the larvae progress in their development to an adult form of the worm and live in the heart and pulmonary vessels, where they continue the life cycle and cause extensive injury. In the cat, the larvae molt as well, but fewer worms survive to adulthood. While dogs suffer severe heart and lung damage from heartworm infection, cats typically exhibit minimal changes in the heart. The cat's primary response to the presence of heartworms occurs in the lungs.
Within the dog, the time frame between initial infection and growth to adult worms is approximately six to seven months, eventually arriving in the heart and pulmonary vessels where they begin to produce new offspring. This period is referred to as patency. In cats, it takes seven to eight months before adult worms arrive in the heart and pulmonary vessels and this is referred to as transient patency. In most cases the life cycle of the heartworm ends here since microfilaria are produced in less than 20% of the cats. Some worms may get up to 3 feet long.
Heavy infestation of heartworms will cause swelling in the lungs, pulmonary arteries, kidneys, and heart, which will eventually cause the animal to die. Heartworm infestation can also cause anemia and liver damage.
Symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, coughing, weakness, dry scruffy coat, edema, and hemorrhage.
Killing heartworms can be dangerous for your dog. Dead worms can clog small blood vessels causing organs to fail making it imperative that your dog be confined to a small space to try and prevent this from happening when using traditional heartworm treatment. Older or sick animals may not be able to tolerate traditional veterinary heartworm treatment. That is why Amber Tech's HWF™ slow method of treatment has it's benefits, which allows the dog to recover slowly. This method does NOT require your dog to be confined.
The heart is a vital organ. Anytime you work with the heart you take a risk. The heartworms can dislodge and depart anywhere in the system. The heart can become weakened from the heartworms. Heartworms can get up to 3 feet long. If a dog is harboring a 3-foot long heartworm, the time to rid the body of the heartworms can take 36 weeks or longer. Depending on the severity of the heartworm infestation AND the condition of the heart will determine the results of the treatment.
It is important to get your heartworm positive dog on a heartworm treatment program as the longer your dog has heartworms, the bigger the risk you are taking for heart, lung, pulmonary arteries, liver, and/or kidney damage.
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*The information on this web site is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or veterinarian. This information is not intended as a substitute for the reader's independent judgment and personal responsibility. Health issues are far too important to delegate to anyone else. It is highly recommended you research and seek information and counsel from as wide a variety of sources as possible, so you can make well informed educated decisions about you, your child's, or your pet's health, as in the end YOU make the decisions.
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