Heartworms are a type of parasitic roundworm or helminth that can infect the heart and’s lungs of dogs, cats, and other infected animals. Dogs–especially younger ones–are especially vulnerable to heartworm infections at any age, as they’re one of the most common hosts for the worm. Puppies and juvenile dogs are particularly susceptible due to their underdeveloped immune systems and their affinity for exploring outdoors.
The severity of symptoms caused by heartworms depends on how many worms an animal has been infected with and how long the infection has been present. The longer a dog is infected, the more damage will be done to its heart and lungs. Most adult dogs that have had heartworms for two or more years will show signs of severe coughing, rapid breathing, weight loss, fainting spells, heavy breathing, lethargy, reduced appetite, pale gums, sluggishness during exercise sessions or walks in general and/or bluish skin colorations around the eyes (called cyanosis).
It’s important to remember that prevention is preferable to detection; prevention helps to reduce long-term costs associated with treatment and keep your dog healthy for longer periods of time than if it were left untreated. Heartworm preventatives can start as early as 8 weeks old; regular testing is recommended once a year for adult dogs even if you provide them with preventative medications regularly.
Introduction to heartworms in dogs
Heartworms in dogs are a serious and potentially deadly problem caused by parasites that live inside the heart and lungs. These tiny worms can damage your dog’s heart, lungs, and other organs, making them weak and unable to function at their full capacity.
The risk of heartworm infection increases with age and climate but all dogs, regardless of age, can be affected by heartworms. There is no one size fits all answer to “what age do dogs get heartworms” since many factors contribute to the risk for exposure. However, for most breeds of dogs, puppies 12 weeks old or older are at the highest risk for contracting this disease.
Smaller breed dogs tend to be more affected due to their high metabolisms and poor ability to fight off infections that larger breed dogs may be able to fend off more easily. Additionally, vist site geography plays a huge role in exposure risk – areas with mild winters and moderate summers such as the southeastern United States experience an extended season of infected mosquitos compared to colder climates where frost eliminates mosquito-borne disease carriers before they become a problem.
Signs and symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs
Dogs of any age can get heartworm disease, but signs and symptoms of the disease tend to show up more in dogs over 6 months old. The most common sign is a persistent cough, and other symptoms that can occur are decreased energy levels, weight loss, decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, and pale gums.
If your dog exhibits any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to a veterinarian as soon as possible. A vet will be able to perform tests to confirm if your dog does indeed have heartworms, and provide appropriate treatment options.
It’s also important to remember that treatment for heartworm disease must be done proactively. Prevention is always the best option when it comes to protecting our furry friends from this deadly ailment!
Risk factors for heartworm disease in dogs
Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially lethal, parasitic infection in dogs. Though it is most common in warmer climates and during certain seasons, any dog can get heartworms in any season if it is exposed. Understanding the risk factors for this parasite can help you protect your pup from the disease.
Environment: Still and stagnant water are major breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which then subsequently spread heartworms to other animals they bite. The warmer and more humid the weather, the increased risk of mosquitos carrying heartworms and spreading them to your pup.
Age: Puppies and senior dogs are more likely to be infected with heartworms due to weakened immune systems caused by age.
Lifestyle: Dogs that spend extended periods of time outdoors or travel frequently may have an increased chance of being bitten by mosquitos carrying heartworms. Keeping dogs away from areas with still water and outdoor kennels when possible will help keep them safe from mosquitos.
Breed: Some breeds are genetically predisposed to draw a higher number of mosquitos than others due to fur type or size; therefore at greater risk for acquiring heartworm disease.
Overall Health: Dogs that are not kept up-to-date on their preventative medication or vaccines may be less likely to fight off an infection if they become infected with heartworms.
What age do dogs get heartworms?
The age at which dogs get heartworms can vary, but generally speaking, heartworm infection is most common in adult dogs aged 3 years or older. While puppies are not usually considered to be at risk of getting heartworms, they can still become infected if exposed to an infected adult dog.
The average life cycle of the heartworm parasite is 2-7 years, and the majority of cases occur when a dog reaches middle age. Therefore, it’s important that pet owners have their dog tested for heartworms every year or two in order to detect any infections early and begin treatment as soon as possible.
To reduce your dog’s risk of becoming infected with heartworms, it is recommended to use a monthly preventative medication. This will kill any larvae your pet picks up from the environment within a few days before the larvae can become established in its body and cause permanent damage. As such, regular preventatives should be used throughout your dog’s life from puppyhood onward.
Prevention of heartworms in dogs
One of the best ways to prevent heartworm infection in dogs is with regular medication. Such medications usually contain ivermectin, a drug used to eradicate parasites from the body. This medication helps protect against heartworms, as well as other parasitic worms and flukes that can harm your dog. Make sure to give your pup its heartworm prevention medicine on time each month so the dosage remains strong.
Another way to prevent canine heartworm disease is by keeping fleas away from your pets. Fleas are the primary carriers of this parasite; fleas bite dogs, deposit larvae on their bodies, and those larvae eventually turn into adult worms living in the dog’s bloodstream. Keeping your pet away from susceptible flea-filled areas will help minimize exposure and reduce risks of contracting heartworms through bites.
Finally, regularly check for signs of disease changes in your pet’s blood or stool samples – even if they seem healthy. Regular check-ups with your vet can help you detect worms quickly before they cause more serious damage to the canine’s system