Heartworms have been common in the south eastern coastal states for
more than 50 years. During the last 20 they have become a real threat
to our Rottweilers. They have slowly spread inland from the East
coast and now few states, if any, are free from heartworms. Hundreds
of dogs die every year from this insidious deadly parasite.
The heartworm depends on both the dog and the mosquito in order for
it to continue. Adult heartworms are found in the right ventrical of
the heart and adjacent vessels. The larvae produced from the adult
female heartworm is called microfilaria. These microscopic creatures
will circulate through your dog's blood vessels until a feeding
mosquito ingests them. Once inside the host mosquito, the
microfilaria will develop into its second and third stages. This
takes about 2 to 3 weeks. It is at the third stage, when the mosquito
bites your Rottie or someone elses dog, the larvae is then deposited
back into the unfortunate canine. Next the larvae moves to the fat or
muscle cells underneath the skin where they then molt and again make
a transformation a fourth and fifth time.
About three months later young adult heartworms begin traveling
directly to the right ventrical of the heart where they will take up
residence and mature. About 6 to 7 months later, the female
heartworms begin producing new microfilaria, and so on, and so on and........
Because most heartworms are very slow in maturing, your Rottweiler
may not exhibit signs of the infestation until it is already in the
advanced stages. Symptoms could be coughing, loss of appetite,
difficulty breathing while exercising and possible general lethargy.
At times signs can include vomiting, diarrhea, and possible jaundice
(where normal pink parts of a dog's gums and eyes appear yellow).
Once these signs are present, however, the heartworm disease is
usually so advanced that successful treatment is greatly reduced.
Never wait more than a couple of days if you notice any of the above
symptoms in your Rottie.
There is another form of heartworm disease that is even more serious
than the one already mentioned. It is called post caval syndrome.
Dogs that have developed this syndrome will often have severe
breathing difficulty by the time a veterinarian sees them. Their
jugular veins will pulse with every heartbeat. For a dog with post
caval syndrome to survive it should have immediate surgical removal
of as many of the worms as possible directly through the jugular
vein. The means of diagnosis is via a blood test. Once it has been
determined your Rottie is free of any deadly heartworms he/she can be
placed on a preventative treatment. Giving a dog preventatives that
is already infected with heartworms can produce serious problems.
There are different ways to administer preventives, some that must be
given daily and others monthly. Be sure to discuss this with your
local veterinarian, but above all be sure to qet your Rottweiler
tested and on a preventative treatment. This is a case where really
an ounce of prevention, even if daily, will prevent what could be
disaster for your best friend. Treatment of heartworm disease is not
only expensive, but very dangerous to your dog. More and more
veterinarians across the country are recommendinq that all dogs be
kept on heartworm preventative year round.