As a dog owner, you should be well aware that an important aspect of your relationship with your dog is your concern for, and your protection of, your dog’s health.
Your dog can contribute a lot to your life – being a great companion and keeping you safe.
However you need to be ever alert to any changes in your dog’s behavior which may indicate a health problem, particularly if your dog:
- drinks an excessive amounts of water,
- loses his appetite,
- becomes overly tired or sluggish,
- has difficulty sitting or standing,
- develops any strange bumps or lumps on his head or body.
Other unusual things that should alarm you are if your dog:
- has any type of abnormal discharges from eyes or nose,
- begins scratching, licking, or biting excessively at one part of his body,
- begins to lose hair.
If you notice any of these signs then you need to contact your veterinarian and ensure that your dog has a thorough check up, and if necessary, appropriate treatment.
In addition, there is one critical disease which can prove extremely debilitating, even fatal, for your dog – heartworm.
Your dog can become infected though a bite from a mosquito that is carrying infective heartworm larvae. Those larvae will progress from the original mosquito bite through your dog’s body until they reach his heart and the blood vessels of his lungs. This process can take up to six months. The heartworm larvae then mature – reaching up to 12 inches in length.
It is at this stage the serious effects start to occur – the adult heartworm in the pulmonary arteries begin to damage those arteries, making blood circulation to your dog’s lungs increasingly difficult. This, in turn, has serious effects on his heart as it is required to pump increasingly harder to circulate the blood to the lungs. The thickening of his heart muscle which results from this can lead to congestive heart failure. In addition, blood clots may form in the damaged pulmonary arteries, break away and move through your dog’s body, potentially creating serious problems in his kidneys and liver as well as with the blood circulation in his legs.
The first sign of heartworm disease is often coughing, caused by the congestion in the lungs. In addition your dog may become increasing intolerant of exercise – because his body is struggling to cope.
Your vet can provide effective treatment – but the medication to treat advanced heartworm can be risky and may have severe effects on some dogs. Because of this, prevention is a much safer option to protect your dog from this disease.
Fortunately, the measures you can take to prevent heartworm in your dog are simple, but not necessarily inexpensive. However, they are far less expensive than the veterinary treatment required if your dog contracts heartworm disease.
The three major preventative options are:
- chewable tablets, administered either daily or monthly;
- topical treatment where you regularly apply a medication to your dog’s skin each month, usually on the back of the neck to avoid licking;
- a six monthly injection administered by your vet.
The most important aspect of any of these is to ensure that the preventative treatment is done regularly to ensure that your dog has continuous protection from heartworm.
Everyday vigilance and appropriate care is essential to ensure that your dog remains healthy; giving him the opportunity to live a long, happy life as your companion.