As a committed and conscientious dog owner, keeping your canine safe from disease is bound to be one of your biggest priorities. Fortunately, preventative care has come a long way in the last few decades and it is now possible to protect our pets from more illnesses and diseases than ever before. While it is important to do everything that we can to protect our dogs from disease whatever age they are, it is particularly important as they get older. This is because as your pet ages, his body will not function as effectively as it once did. Just like us, older dogs can find that their immune system is compromised, and this can mean that not only are they more likely to become sick in the first place, the rate at which the illness progresses can also be expedited. In the case of serious health problems and parasite infestations, this can mean that things become life-changing or even deadly, very quickly indeed.
While there are many different diseases that can affect your dog, one of the most dangerous is a parasite-caused infection known as heartworms. Fortunately, with the right treatment you can protect your senior dog from the unpleasantness of suffering from heartworms.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are the name given to the worm-like parasites that can invade your dog’s body if and when he is bitten by an infected mosquito. When this happens, heartworm larvae are transferred from the mozzie to your pet. The microscopic larvae then migrate to the blood vessels of your dog’s heart and lungs where they grow, mature and eventually reproduce. Over the course of the following months, the number of heartworms present in your dog’s body can grow rapidly, restricting the flow of blood to and from the heart and lungs. In some cases, immature heartworms can also travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. These spaghetti-like worms may be thin, but that can grow up to 12 inches in length. They can also live for up to 7 years unless treatment is sought. A large population of heartworms can cause irreversible damage to your dog’s body and even create a blockage that causes sudden death.
Symptoms of heartworms
One of the most difficult aspects of treating heartworms is that the symptoms are not immediate. In fact, it can take up to 6 months for the larvae to mature into full adults and release a chemical that can finally be detected by a blood test, that will show the presence of heartworms in your pet. When symptoms do become apparent, they will include:
How to protect your senior dog from heartworms
The good news is that protecting your older canine pal from heartworms is easier than ever. There are highly effective preventative medications that can be administered, and these are most often given on a monthly, semi-annual or annual basis. These can kill heartworms before they mature into adults capable of reproducing, stopping the infestation in its tracks. There is a selection of brands available, and your vet will be able to help you find one that is suitable for your senior dog. Your vet will also talk to you about the importance of sticking to a strict schedule of administering all types of preventative care so that your canine pal is not left vulnerable at any point.
If you are concerned about heartworms affecting your senior dog, our dedicated and experienced team would be delighted to speak with you and put your mind at rest. Our veterinary offices are based in San Antonio, TX. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call.