Heartworm (Dirofilariasis) in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


heartworm disease or heartworm disease It is a very serious disease caused by the bite of a mosquito infected with worms. Dirofilaria immitis. The insect accumulates larvae that migrate into the dog’s pulmonary arteries before developing. It is essential to act very quickly to prevent the death of the animal. The disease progresses slowly when worms are found in his body, but the outcome is often fatal if treatment is delayed.

How is this pathology characterized? What are the clinical signs to watch out for? How is it treated? Could it be heartworm disease? Let’s take a look at this case.

What is heartworm disease or dirofilariasis in dogs?

Dirofilariasis, or heartworm disease, can affect dogs and cats. It is a non-contagious heart disease transmitted to an animal by the bite of a worm-infected mosquito. Dirofilaria immitis. If this pathology is mainly observed in the places where these mosquitoes are found, namely in tropical and subtropical regions, seasonal peaks can be observed in the northern hemisphere, especially around the Mediterranean basin from March to October, and further north in summer. your country.

Immediately after the bite, the larvae of the worms, deposited on the dog’s skin, migrate to its heart. They are located in the pulmonary arteries, which are arteries starting from the heart, and sometimes even on the right side of the heart. They live there for several years, and their presence can cause the death of the animal. Indeed, if the invasion is rapid, the evolution of the disease is slow. On the other hand, it has serious consequences and can cause heart failure and sudden death.

worm Dirofilaria immitis can contaminate a variety of domestic and wild carnivorous species such as dogs, cats, ferrets, foxes and wolves. When the worms in the dog’s body reach the adult stage, they give birth to new larvae called microfilariae. These larvae enter the bloodstream and thus can contaminate mosquitoes that feed on their victim’s blood. If he bites another animal again, he can infect it.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs or dirofilariasis?

Heartworm disease can be very serious for the dog and lead to its death. Therefore, it is imperative to pay attention to the symptoms that are likely to cause it.

These clinical signs vary according to the progression of the disease. Note that if after the bite of an infected mosquito the invasion of the larvae is very rapid, then the evolution of the pathology is slow.

Symptoms in the initial stage of the disease

At first, you may observe one or more of the following clinical signs in your dog:

  • persistent fatigue and lack of drive;
  • cough;
  • significant weight loss;
  • ischemic muscle myopathy, which corresponds to weakening of the muscles;
  • skin ailments;
  • pulmonary effusion;
  • renal failure accompanied by an increase in creatinine and urea;
  • eye disorders, more rare but possible;
  • syncope.

Symptoms in the second stage of the disease

As heartworm disease progresses and worsens, the animal may display the following clinical signs:

  • general weakness;
  • anorexia;
  • lethargy;
  • jaundice or jaundice;
  • dark urine;
  • depression, locomotor deficiency, coma, etc. A neurological syndrome that can cause ;
  • Kava syndrome (or intravascular hemolytic syndrome), which in the case of massive invasion corresponds to a very serious complication of the pathology. The animal then manifests with ventricular tachycardia, which increases the risk of cardiac arrest.

The more worms there are, the more severe the dog’s symptoms. In the slightest doubt, it is essential to consult a veterinarian immediately, because the faster the dog is cared for, the higher the chance of rescuing the animal. Ideally, action should be taken before the larvae have reached the adult stage, as their reproduction is then accelerated and infestation becomes crucial. They invade the heart muscle, destroy red blood cells, inflame and clog the pulmonary arteries.

What is the treatment for heartworm disease in dogs or dirofilariasis?

What is the diagnosis of dirofilariasis in dogs?

To confirm the pathology, the veterinarian may conduct several additional examinations:

  • serology;
  • a blood count and blood count to estimate the extent of inflammation;
  • investigation of biochemical parameters to identify possible kidney damage;
  • echocardiography or ultrasound of the heart.

What is the treatment for heartworm disease in dogs?

When heartworm disease in dogs is confirmed, it is important to start treatment promptly to relieve the animal as soon as possible. A double action is required for:

  • destroying larvae (microfilariae) by treatments in the form of antiparasitic macrocyclic lactones by oral administration or injection;
  • Destroys adult worms (filaria) through intramuscular injections of Melanasarmine.

It should be noted that the administration of these treatments requires monitoring of the animal for a period of at least 12 hours. Indeed, these are powerful and risky treatments because the destruction of filariae and microfilariae can cause a reaction such as cardiovascular failure in the dog.

In addition, in some countries it is sometimes possible to perform surgical intervention when the animal shows a kava syndrome, since the invasion of the heart is so great. It is a long, expensive and risky operation called “last chance intervention” performed under fluoroscopy. This process allows for the guidance of a forceps inserted into the carotid artery to remove any worms present in the heart.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that the fastest treatment is necessary for the dog’s survival. Applying a treatment that claims to be effective may not be enough to save the dog’s life if given too late. Also, sequelae still matter in the context of late treatment if the dog manages to survive.

Can heartworm disease or dirofilariasis in dogs be prevented?

It is not always possible to prevent heartworm disease in dogs. However, it is preferable to follow the following precautionary measures to protect your animal:

  • Don’t forget to regularly give your dog essential external worms and anti-parasitic agents (flea and tick repellants).
  • Do not let your dog walk alone as he may encounter an infected animal.
  • Keep mosquitoes away from your home as much as possible, equip them with mosquito nets or empty containers with standing water (plant dishes, watering cans, etc.).





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