Heartworms - Symptoms, causes and treatment

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Heartworms - Symptoms, causes and treatment
Heartworms - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Heartworms are infections of the liver caused by parasites in the form of flatworms. Depending on the type of liver fluke that infects the body, people with liver fluke infection can experience a variety of complaints ranging from fever to jaundice

A person can become infected with liver flukes if they eat food from aquatic plants or animal meat that is contaminated with liver fluke larvae. Therefore, this disease is also included in the zoonotic disease.

Heart Worms - Alodokter

The Cause of Heartworms

Heartworms are caused by parasites in the form of worms that infect the liver. Based on the species, liver flukes that can cause liver inflammation include:


A person can be infected with the liver fluke species Clonorchis sinensis, if they eat food such as fish, crabs, and undercooked freshwater shrimp that are contaminated with the parasite's larvae. This parasite, which is widely found in Asia, can survive in the human body for about 25-30 years if not treated.


Heartworm infection of Opisthorchis species can also occur after eating fish, crabs and shrimp that are undercooked or contaminated with liver fluke larvae. If left untreated, this parasite can last up to 30 years and cause serious complications.

The opisthorchis parasite can be found in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, and Russia.


A person can become infected with Fasciola liver flukes, especially Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica, if they eat aquatic plants, such as watercress, which are contaminated with liver fluke larvae from sheep or cow dung.

Heartworm Symptoms

Infection with liver flukes in the early stages usually does not cause symptoms until the patient's condition worsens. However, in some cases, inflammation caused by liver worms can also cause the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shiver
  • stomach ache
  • Heart swells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • No appetite
  • Losing weight

When to see a doctor

Early examination and treatment for liver fluke infection is important to prevent complications. Therefore, if you experience the symptoms described above, immediately consult a doctor to get the right treatment.

Heartworm Diagnosis

To diagnose liver worms, the doctor will ask questions related to symptoms, medical history, sanitary conditions of residence, hand washing habits, and foods that are often consumed. After that, the doctor will perform a supporting examination in the form of:

  • Blood test, to determine the type of liver fluke parasite antibodies in the blood and check the white blood cell count
  • Scans with CT scan, cholangiography, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), and MRI, to look for damage to the liver or bile that may be caused by a liver fluke infection
  • Stool examination, to confirm the presence of liver fluke eggs in the stool

Heartworm Treatment

Heartworm treatment aims to prevent complications. Treatment methods for liver worms that can be done by doctors include:


To treat infections of the liver, doctors can prescribe deworming drugs, such as nitazoxanide, triclabendazole, albendazole, and praziquantel.

Corticosteroids may also be given to treat acute liver fluke infections that cause severe symptoms.


Heartworm infection can spread to other organs, especially the bile ducts, and cause infection. To treat it, doctors can perform surgery to open the blockage in the bile duct.

Heartworm Complications

Untreated liver worms can infect other organs and cause serious complications such as:

  • Gallstone disease
  • Infection of the ducts and gallbladder (cholecystitis and cholangitis)
  • Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)

Heartworm Prevention

To prevent liver fluke infection, there are several things that can be done, namely:

  • Avoid picking or picking vegetables that are in places suspected of being contaminated with parasites.
  • Wash hands with running water and soap before handling food, after using the toilet, and after contact with animals.
  • Wash food ingredients thoroughly before processing.
  • Make sure to cook vegetables, prawns, crabs, and fish thoroughly before consuming them.
  • Keep food or water clean, especially if there are farm animals around the house.
  • Check your pet or farm animals regularly to the vet.

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