Heartworm disease in German Shepherds is a type of parasite infestation. Caused by heartworms or dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic roundworm transmitted via mosquito bites, the disease is considered one of the deadliest of parasite infections seen in dogs.
What is Heartworm Disease in German Shepherds?
Heartworm disease in German Shepherds can cause irreparable organ damage, heart failure, and death if left untreated. Dog heartworms are found worldwide and are transmitted via mosquito bites. They infest not only the heart but the lungs and blood vessels of your dog. These parasitic roundworms can grow longer than a foot inside a dog’s body and reproduce up to several hundred worms – causing an array of symptoms, including a dry cough and exercise intolerance.
German Shepherds love exploring outdoors and if you live near areas where heartworm disease is widespread, your pet is at a greater risk. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms allowing these parasites to live inside your German Shepherd’s body until they mature and replicate.
Heartworm Disease in German Shepherds: Is Dog-to-Dog Transmission Possible?
No, there is no chance of dog-to-dog transmission of heartworms. Only infected mosquitoes can transmit these parasites from one animal to another. When a mosquito bites an infected dog or any other animal, it becomes a carrier. The heartworm undergoes an incubation period in the mosquito, who is capable to transmit the parasite into your dog through bites thereafter.
Heartworms in German Shepherd: The Transmission
Your German Shepherd can get heartworms when a mosquito that carries microfilaria larvae bites him. When the microfilaria matures into an adult heartworm, it can reproduce hundreds of heartworms that clog up the arteries leading to the lungs. These parasites can also irritate the blood vessels connecting the heart with the lungs. Because of the blockage these worms cause, your German Shepherd’s heart may need to work harder to pump blood through the lungs to continue the oxygen circulation.
When the heartworm population becomes too large, your German Shepherd’s chest needs to work harder and harder. This may result in the heart enlargement or eventually heart failure due to overwork.
Signs of Heartworm Disease in German Shepherds
Heartworm disease is a silent killer in German Shepherds. Signs of heartworm infestation are often overlooked and ignored because they can be seemingly mundane and ordinary. Some symptoms can even be passed off as signs of aging and other illness. Most signs may not appear until the worms are mature enough, which is usually 6 to 7 months after the transmission occurs. Listed below are the most common signs of heartworm disease in German Shepherds.
- Dry cough
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Reluctance to exercise
- Protruding chest
- Rapid or Labored breathing
- Unusual allergies