Millennium Post

Fur-ever friends

Irrespective of the breed, it is our duty to respond to the needs of our pets as they stand helpless and incapable – especially with medical requirements

Fur-ever friends

What do you do if my dog is diagnosed with Heartworm and what is the significance of Heartworm Testing?

Heartworm disease in dogs is a blood-borne parasitic nematode (roundworm) known as Dirofilaria immitis transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes ingest immature heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, by feeding on either an infected cat or dog. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito's gut and then enter parts of the mosquito's mouth. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it injects larvae into the dog. The larvae then mature over a period of several months, eventually ending up in the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries. Once this occurs, they mature into adult heartworms in dogs, and can reproduce about six months from the time of invasion. At approximately eight months after the invasion, heartworm in dogs begin to produce a new crop of microfilariae that will live in the dog's blood for about one month. By the time this occurs, most dogs are showing significant heartworm symptoms, and their lives are in danger. Dogs often show very few symptoms in the early stages of infection. The longer a dog is infected, the more symptoms will start to appear. Symptoms will be particularly severe in very active dogs, dogs with other existing health problems, and dogs who are infected with a large number of worms.

Most dogs infected with heartworm will have a mild persistent cough and decreased appetite. They will experience weight loss and will get tired and winded after even moderate activity; many will lose interest in exercise altogether. As the disease progresses, some dogs may develop a swollen stomach due to a build-up of fluid in the abdomen. Untreated, heartworm disease can lead to heart failure or caval syndrome, which is a sudden blockage of blood flow inside the heart. Symptoms of caval syndrome include suddenly laboured breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-coloured urine. If your dog presents with any of these symptoms, take him to the vet immediately. Heartworm is almost 100 per cent preventable in dogs, with very little effort. While there is currently no vaccine available to prevent heartworm, there are several preventive medications available, including a once-a-month chewable tablet, a once-a-month topical treatment and a twice-a-year injection. As an added benefit, some of these medications help guard against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, and fleas and ticks.

Is there any danger in letting chickens roam freely?

Chickens are vulnerable to predators like dogs. Unless you have a good wall and not just a fence, you may lose them as they may wander through it. It will become increasingly difficult to find their eggs if they have fields to find secret laying spots. In conditions such as these, chickens are more likely to become egg-paranoid and broody. They will attack you if they believe you are going near their stashes.

Some owners make the distinction that their flock is either full-time or part-time free range chickens. The difference being that full-time free range chickens are left entirely to their own devices, essentially free to run wild over the property. Part-time free range chickens spend most of the day out of the coop, exploring the world; however, they come home at the end of the day to a safe warm coop. Vaccinate them as they might contract diseases when they are scuttling and pecking their way across a large property.

(Views expressed and information provided are personal. Send your questions to

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