Unlike intestinal worms, heartworm is an infection spread by mosquito bites between dogs. The incidence in Perth is around low but can vary dramatically from
one area to another, with sometimes one block in a suburb have a high level of infection due to a few infected dogs acting as resevoirs.
Heartworm disease is produced by the presence of these worms which live within the chambers of the right side of the heart. Disease from these worms is
mainly from their inflammatory effect on the pulmonary arteries supplying the lungs – hence coughing as an important symptom. As well as causing a chronic
cough, lethargy, exercise intolerance and weight loss may be noticed. In acute, severe infections, sudden death may be caused by a tangled knot of worms causing obstruction to blood flow into the heart.
Prevention is the name of the game with heartworm disease for these reasons:
- It is expensive and time consuming and potentially hazardous, in severe cases, to your pet to treat this disease
- Symptoms may take a few years to appear after infection. In other words you dog may look perfectly healthy but be gradually developing heartworm disease.
- Prevention is simple and affordable – especially with new methods now available
Prevention takes the form of either:
- Monthly oral prevention
- Monthly skin application of topical products – some include a combined heartworm + flea control +/- intestinal wormer.
- Annual injection – see above
Heartworm prevention should be started by 12 to 16 weeks of age and continued throughout life while frequenting a heartworm zone.
A Heartworm Blood Test
is required if you are starting heartworm prevention for the first time or if there are any substantial breaks in heartworm prevention.
Please contact us for further details. The test is a simple to conduct in-house ELISA test that gives results within a few minutes so that you have peace of mind your dog is not harbouring a heartworm infection.
Dogs can be infected with
- Roundworms - (Toxocara)
They can have implications for your dogs’ health as well as occasionally affecting human health, especially children.
Risks of roundworms to children
Children can be infected by dog (and cat) roundworms by swallowing the larvae that hatches from a roundworm egg. This doesn’t cause an intestinal worm
infection but the worms instead migrate through their body - usually causing no harm. It is when these worms migrate through the eye, especially the retina that
problems arise – vision loss can occur. And unfortunately it is difficult if not impossible to treat. As the eggs take 3 weeks to hatch when deposited and aren’t themselves infective the main
precautions to prevent Toxocara infection in humans are:
- Worm dogs and cats regularly – especially as puppies and kittens.
- Clean up droppings in your yard at least weekly - preferably wearing gloves.
- Ensure you and your children wash their hands after touching pets or handling soil before eating
Dogs are infected by worms by:
- Migrating across the placenta before born or through the bitches milk – all puppies are born with worms and need frequent dosing in the first 3 months to clear this infection
- eating either eggs or larvae directly from the ground
- Ingesting a flea – in the case of the flea tapeworm. Fleas are the tapeworms intermediate host so unless you control tapeworm infestation will continue to reoccur.
- Eating earthworms, insects or snails.
- Eating uncooked offal. Raw meat is usually safe
Symptoms of worm infestation are:
- Dry coat
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite – as you are feeding the worms as well as your dog!
- Rubbing/licking bottom – if symptoms don’t subside after worm dose your dog may need its anal glands checked by a vet.
So to keep your dog worm free:
- Worm regularly. Worm dosing should be based on bodyweight using an effective product. We can advise a cost-effective all-wormer that kills all of the
above worms including Hydatid tapeworms. Worming should be done at least every 2 weeks between 2 and 12 weeks of age, then 3 monthly for life. Dose more frequently if there is evidence of worms.
- Use effective flea control to prevent the flea tapeworm.
- Don’t feed uncooked offal.
- Prevent your dog from gaining access to earthworms or snails if possible.