Worms In My Dog’s Heart

My veterinarian said there are worms in my dog’s heart. What does that mean?

I am sad to hear this question. Worms in the heart are called Heartworms. Heartworm disease is serious and potentially fatal in pets. It is produced by foot-long icky, white worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels of affected pets, triggering severe lung disease, heart failure and harm to other organs in the body. Basically, these worms grow, reproduce and multiply clogging the heart and other organs.

I remember my first case of heartworm 35 years ago. It was devastating. The dog’s heart was filled with worms. It was so advanced that treating the dog was extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, this dog did not make it. At that time, we believed you should only treat your pet for heartworm preventive in the summer. Boy have we changed our opinion on that now.

Mosquitos transmit heartworm. We see mosquitos year-round in southern Ohio now. During our recent cold spell, I caught one flying in our house. It was almost zero outside. Year-round heartworm prevention is imperative in our region.

I am sure your veterinarian is recommending hospitalization, medication, pain management, and strict cage rest. Hopefully, your veterinarian detected the worms through testing early, before they have were able to multiply significantly.

My dog keeps eating the cat food. Is that OK?

I know this is obvious but cats should be feed cat food and dogs should be feed dog food and neither should receive people food. I see cases all the time that do not follow this simple rule.

Cat food is too rich for dogs and will cause GI upsets, while dog food is nutritionally insufficient for cats. Our feline friends are true carnivores. They have a higher meat requirement. And they need an amino acid called Taurine that is in cat food. Without it, cats can develop heart disease.

Feeding human foods to pets can be toxic. The following is an incomplete list of some of the more common poisonous foods: Chocolate, xylitol, grapes, raisins, caffeine, fatty foods, onions, chives, macadamia nuts, avocados, cherries with pits and alcohol.

What type or brand of food should I feed my pet?

When I began my practice over 30 years ago, the answer was easy as there were only a few reputable choices. Now there are hundreds of niche diets and brands. My best advice is to stick to the reputable names and stay away from the gimmick marketing, particularly any claims that appeal to humans but are not proven in animals.

Thousand page scientific books have been devoted to pet nutrition because pet nutrition is complicated, and while a magazine article may sound exciting, it is usually introductory at best. More and more of my colleagues across the country are seeing sick pet’s due to new “trendy” pet diets and foods. Remember, each pet has unique nutritional needs. Only you and your veterinarian know your pet. TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN about YOUR pet’s diet needs.

Do you have questions about your pet? Do you read this “Ask the Vet” page? Let us know. Email us at info@springborovet.com

Gary Beall DVM
Chip Beall, Senior Veterinary Student at OSU
Springboro Veterinary Hospital
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Phone: 937-748-1378
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