According to Matt Davies Harmony Communities, heartworm disease was restricted to a few regions just a few years ago. However, today your dog may be at risk of heartworm disease no matter where you live. Let’s check out how heartworm affects your pets.
- Damage to the arteries – Within days of the heartworm larvae entering your pet’s body, your pet’s artery lining would start getting sustained damage. Your pet’s body combats this by inducing inflammation of the arteries and inflammation in other affected areas. It’s the body’s way of healing itself.
However, your pet’s body’s healing rate can never keep up with the damage rate of the heartworm. After a certain period, your pet’s arteries develop certain characteristics that are evident of heartworm disease and can only be seen in X-rays. When there’s significant arterial damage, aneurysms and blood clots are common side effects. In some cases, small arteries can get completely blocked.
- Fluid accumulation and blockage of blood flow – The heartworms in your dog’s body can significantly block the normal flow of blood. If your dog is of a small breed or has narrower blood vessels, even a single heartworm can cause significant blockage. This forces the blood to arteries that aren’t blocked by the heartworms and that results in partial or complete blockages of blood vessels.
This also results in fluid accumulation around the blocked blood vessels. That fluid fills up the lungs and reduces their ability to oxygenate the blood. Imagine this phenomenon as water flowing through garden hoses blocked by small debris and building dangerous levels of pressure at the blocked sections. Combine that with inflammation and you’ll see your dog exhibiting a dry and persistent heartworm cough. Your pet may also experience nosebleeds, weight loss, shortness of breath, and trouble exercising.
- Heart failure – As immature heartworms continue to accumulate and mature in the heart and lungs, the symptoms would worsen, and your dog’s reactions would become more severe. The tissues and blood vessels surrounding the lungs would get damaged and cause hypertension on the right side of the heart. This would eventually lead to heart failure and can be fatal. That’s why preventing heartworms with treatments is easier than treating them after your dog gets infected.
- Caval syndrome – In the most severe cases of heartworm disease, your dog will have caval syndrome. It’s a life-threatening illness that’s caused when the mass of worms in the heart stops the closure of the tricuspid valve and leads to cardiovascular collapse. Symptoms of this syndrome include anemia, weakness, respiratory distress, hemoglobinuria, hepatic and renal dysfunction, acute anorexia, and more. Caval syndrome is almost a death sentence to your pooch.
Matt Davies Harmony Communities suggests that you don’t miss out on vet visits to identify heartworm disease early on. You should also give your dog heartworm treatment every month or as prescribed by the vet to prevent it. Preventing the disease is much simpler compared to treating it after the larvae enter your pet’s system.