Heartworm is a parasite that can live in the heart of dogs and cats. Mosquitoes carry the worm from one infected animal to another. Several hundred worms can live in the heart of a dog and infection from the parasite causes significant damage and can be fatal. Our area has seen an increase in cases of heartworm infection due to pets from the southern states being brought north.
The vets at Brodheadsville Veterinary Clinic recommend that dogs be tested for heartworm once a year and that both dogs and cats remain on heartworm preventive medication. Our experienced staff can help you select the preventive medication that is best suited to your pet.
Heartworm disease is one of the most painful, deadly, and costly parasitic infections. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to prevent. In honor of National Heartworm Awareness Month, here are 11 facts you should know about the mosquito-transmitted disease:
- Heartworm disease most often affects dogs, cats, and ferrets.
- Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, providing the ideal environment for heartworms to mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring.
- Mature heartworms look like spaghetti.
- Dogs can harbor several hundred adult worms in their bodies, but cats affected by the disease often have few, if any, adult worms (although the immature worms still cause significant damage because of a condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease, or HARD).
- Heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in a dog and up to 2 to 3 years in a cat.
- Signs of heartworm disease in dogs include a mild but a persistent cough, fatigue (especially after activity), decreased appetite, and weight loss.
- Signs of heartworm disease in cats include coughing, asthma-like attacks, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Often, a cat will show no signs of heartworm until he suddenly collapses and succumbs to the disease.
- Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries of dogs. Dogs can be treated for the disease, but the treatment is expensive, difficult, and often comes too late to fully “cure” the animal.
- The medication used to treat heartworm infection in dogs cannot be used in cats. Prevention is the only way to protect cats from heartworms.
- Dogs should be tested annually for heartworm, and cats should be tested before being put on preventive medication.
- Both cats and dogs should be on regular heartworm preventive medication.
If you have any questions about heartworm disease, be sure to contact the friendly staff at Brodheadsville Veterinary Clinic today!