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Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in Nigeria and many other parts of the world. This is because of the enormity of mosquitoes and mosquito related infections in Nigeria.

It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog.

The worms are foot-long worms called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal. They stay there long enough thereby causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Heartworm disease is not contagious, meaning that a dog cannot catch the disease from being near an infected dog. Heartworm disease is only spread through the bite of a mosquito.

In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle. The heartworm will migrate to the lung and cause a round lesion that looks like a tumor. But these are very rare cases.

It can be easy to confuse heartworm symptoms with other ailments that may be less severe. If you do notice any abnormal behavior in your pet, schedule an appointment with their veterinarian.

Signs and Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs

The signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of adult worms present, the location of the worms, the length of time the worms have been in the dog, and the degree of damage that has been sustained by the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

The most obvious clinical signs of heartworm disease are;

  • Soft, dry cough,
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Weakness,
  • Listlessness,
  • Loss of stamina.
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may cause the abdomen and legs to swell from fluid accumulation.

All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise, when some dogs may even faint or become disoriented. Your veterinarian may notice abnormal lung and heart sounds when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.


Your veterinarian has a number of options for diagnosing heartworm infection. The antigen detection test is the preferred method for diagnosis verification of a suspected heartworm infection. This test is easy to perform and is considered the most accurate test available for dogs.

Treatment of Heartworms in Dogs

It’s possible to cure a dog of an infestation of adult heartworms, but the process is time-consuming, expensive, and can be hard on your pet. The typical treatment requires hospitalization while receiving injections of heartworm adulticides, along with several weeks of limited exercise.

You should also consider damage to your dog’s body before they even begin treatment. Consulting a veterinarian will help you determine the best course of action.


Prevention is simple to do, cost friendly and is effective in protecting your dog against heartworm disease.

There are three drugs which can be used to prevent heartworm infection. One is a daily, chewable tablet; the others are chewable tablets that are given only once monthly. All three products are very safe and very effective. Side effects of the chewable medication are rare.


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