Vaccines are injections of whole or parts of the organisms that cause a disease. For example, a rabies vaccine is an injection of killed rabies viruses. The body’s immune system “sees” these organisms and makes antibodies against them. These antibodies will destroy any live organisms the body is infected with in the future. This is called “immunity”.
In order for a vaccine to work, the injected animal must have a normal, healthy immune system.
Heartworms are parasites that live in an infected dog’s pulmonary artery (the artery between the heart and the lungs). Damage to the artery wall begins within days of the worms’ arrival. The arteries become inflamed, enlarged and dilated. As the arteries become plugged with worms, the heart begins to struggle to pump blood through them. The right side of the heart enlarges. This enlargement leads to heart failure and eventual death. Early in the course of disease, the dog will show no signs that he or she is infected.
HOW DO DOGS GET HEARTWORMS?
Heartworms use mosquitoes to complete their life cycle. Adult heartworms in the dog produce baby heartworms called microfilaria. Microfilaria circulate in the dog’s blood. When a mosquito comes along and bites an infected dog, it ingests heartworm microfilaria as well as blood. Within the mosquito’s body, the microfilaria undergoes several molts. When it is done molting, the now larval mosquito migrates to the mosquito’s mouth parts and is injected into another dog at the next bite. Within the dog, the mosquito larva again molts and within five months ends up as adult heartworms in the dog’s pulmonary artery.
WHAT IS HEARTWORM DISEASE?
A dog is said to have “heartworm disease” when he or she starts to show clinical signs of being sick. The most common early signs are coughing, exercise intolerance, and harsh breathing. Later, as the disease progresses, signs related to heart failure begin to appear. (bloated abdomen, labored breathing, weakness). By the time these signs are present, the animal is in critical condition.
WHAT IS HEARTWORM PREVENTATIVE?
We can prevent the devastating effect of heartworms on the pet by administering monthly medication which prevents larval heartworms from developing into adults. When given correctly on a regular basis, heartworm medication is 100% effective at preventing adult heartworm infection. As long as your pet remains in this area, he should receive monthly medication to prevent heartworm infection.
Most pet owners understand that puppies and kittens often have “worms”. Different worms can live in different parts of the body. For example: heartworms live in the heart. However, the grand majority of worms live in an animal’s intestines. These worms are “intestinal parasites.”
HOW DO PETS GET INTESTINAL PARASITES?
Frequently, puppies or kittens are infected with intestinal parasites while they are in the uterus or shortly thereafter. This is the reason that most baby animals have worms. Infected adult animals pass eggs in their stool. Other animals are then infected through contact with infected stool.
CAN PEOPLE CATCH WORMS FROM PETS?
Hookworm larvae migration in human foot
The term “zoonosis” refers to a disease that can pass from animals to humans. The zoonotic disease people are most familiar with is Rabies. Many people do not realize that Hookworms and Roundworms both have the potential to be zoonotic. Infection usually occurs from playing barefoot in an infected area or accidental ingestion of fecal material. In small children or immunosuppressed people, larvae can migrate through the feet into the liver or even in the eyes, causing serious disease. This is not a reason to fear, but it is a reason to actively identify and prevent intestinal parasites in puppies and dog.
WILL INTESTINAL PARASITES HARM MY PET?
All parasites harm the host in some manner. How badly the pet is harmed depends on the age and general health of the pet. Adult healthy animals may tolerate parasites well showing only mild effects. However, parasites can have a devastating effect on the young, old, and sick. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, loss of weight, and in some instances, life threatening anemia. Parasites can also pose a risk to humans.
For these reasons, it is important to vigilantly protect your pets against intestinal parasites by performing yearly screening and administering monthly parasite preventative.
HOW WILL MY VETERINARIAN DETERMINE IF MY PET HAS WORMS?
Most intestinal parasites will pass their eggs into the pet’s stool as part of their reproduction cycle. These eggs can be identified by evaluating a fresh stool sample with a microscope. Your pet should have his stool evaluated in all the following instances:
- Puppy exams
- Yearly exams
- Your pet vomits, has diarrhea, or loses weight
Unfortunately, fecal exams, while helpful, are not 100%. Parasites and their eggs are only passed periodically in the stool. A stool sample performed when the egg or parasite is not present will be negative despite the fact that the pet is infected. To maximize the potential for identifying parasites, your veterinarian will want to test fresh stool in the highest volume possible. If your pet is having diarrhea, testing the loose stool or testing multiple samples is more accurate than testing a single normal stool.