I thought I would email you to see if you could give me any suggestions on Bandit, our 4 year old Blue Heeler. Since we have had some nice warmer days recently; we have let bandit be outside running through the fields and playing down by the river. We have noticed that he doesn’t want to swim this season and when we play fetch with him he coughs some and doesn’t want to play as long as he normally does. This really concerns me since it seems like it has happened all of the sudden.
It sounds like Bandit may be having a problem with his heart. These symptoms you list of decreased exercise tolerance and coughing are commonly seen with Heart Disease and Heartworms. Although it seems like this is an acute problem if Bandit has been in the house with you all winter this problem has probably been building, but you are just now noticing it as his exercise level returns to normal.
I believe you should bring Bandit in right away for an examination and testing. We will perform a heartworm test to see if he has heartworms and may do a radiograph of his chest to evaluate his heart as well. Prevention should be given year round without interruption. Your proximity to the river is concerning as Heartworms are contracted through mosquito bites. You do not have to live next to a river to contract heartworms though. A mosquito may carry heartworms at anytime and may live through a winter if they are able to hide in warm areas, especially in urban regions.
If you have left over heartworm prevention from last year please do not start it until we test Bandit as giving prevention to a dog carrying a large burden of heartworms can be fatal to him. Please call us to schedule Bandit’s appointment at your earliest convenience.
This is a pictures of heartworms that have been removed from a dogs heart. Not a pretty sight is it?
Heartworm disease is a serious condition caused by worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart but did you know that dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection? It's because Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes that become infected while taking a blood meal from an infected animal.
When the mosquito then bites another dog or cat (like your pet,) larvae are deposited on the skin. The larvae then take a 2 month road trip through the connective tissue, under the skin, then pass into the animal’s blood stream and are quickly transported to the arteries of the lung. It takes a total of approximately six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms that begin producing offspring. Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in the dog.
The consequence of these worms residing in the dog is the development of problems with their lungs and heart, like heart failure. Many dogs do not show any signs of heartworm disease until the disease is in advanced stages. It is important to test dogs on a regular basis in order to catch the disease before it gets to that point. The American Heartworm Society encourages testing on an annual basis. When was the last time your pets were tested for heartworms?
Don’t let your pets heartworm end up in your heartache! It is very easy to prevent heartworm disease. It can be as simple as giving your dog a tablet once a month all year round. There are topical forms of the medication as well. Call you vet to discuss the options for your pet.