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This disease is not spread from pet to pet via contact, but by another nasty creature, we all know as the mosquito. The mosquito is a necessary link in the transfer of the disease. The number of dogs infected with heartworms always increases during the height of the mosquito season. Long mosquito seasons will increase the rate of infections rapidly.
Once heartworms are transmitted by the mosquito into the dog's bloodstream, they travel through the blood into the heart and the major pulmonary blood vessels. The heartworms are in the immature stage and are called microfilaria.
Upon arriving in the heart, the microfilaria will set up residence and grow into adult heartworms. These fully grown parasites cause heart blockage and damage to surrounding tissues by clogging the heart and the major blood vessels leading from the heart. Adult heartworms will also interfere with the valve action within the heart.
When the heart and main blood vessels get clogged, the blood flow to other critical organs is reduced, which can cause problems for the liver, kidneys, and lungs, resulting in organ failure.
Most dogs which are infected with heartworms will not show any outward signs of disease for as long as up to two years. Sadly, by the time the disease starts to show signs in the dog, it is in the advanced stage. These signs depend on several factors, such as the number of adult worms and microfilariae present, as well as their location. The length of time the infection has been present, and the amount of damage already done to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys are all essential factors.
Signs of Heartworm Infestation - The most obvious outward signs of heartworms are:
Unexplained weight loss.A dry almost constant cough with labored breathing.Shortness of breath.Sudden weakness.A sudden show of nervousness or listlessness, accompanied by a loss of stamina.
The signs of heartworms are most noticeable after the dog has been engaged in exercise or play. Some dogs with heartworms may even faint or drop dead suddenly right after engaging in rigorous play or exercise.
Treatment for heartworms is available but it is costly and in some cases may prove fatal to the dog itself. To prevent this horrible disease in your Pit Bull, be sure to keep your dog’s regular vet appointments. Heartworms can be prevented easily by administering heartworm medication to your pet each month.
As always, talk to your vet if you have any concerns that your dog may have heartworms, and never try to treat the disease on your own. Always consult a properly qualified professional before starting any type of treatments on your dog.