Heartworms are deadly parasites that can infect different animal species. The disease is spread by mosquitoes which means it is easily transmitted to cats and dogs. Cats rarely get the disease, but when infected, they suffer from respiratory problems. In veterinary medicine, heartworm treatment can be expensive and is only available for dogs, so prevention medication is necessary for cats and dogs.
How are heartworms diagnosed?
Heartworms can be detected through bloodwork. An antigen test is used to detect heartworm proteins in the blood. In some cases, other diagnostics such as ultrasounds, radiology and echocardiogram are necessary to examine the organs.
Why is heartworm disease so dangerous for my pet?
This disease is especially dangerous because it is progressive. Dogs are better hosts for the worms, so they are more likely to suffer from an infestation. This parasite grows up to a foot long and lives in your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels. In severe cases, a dog can have up to 300 worms living in their bodies, causing damage to vital organs. Canine heartworm infection can lead to “caval syndrome, “ a life-threatening condition that causes liver failure. Your pet can have heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and ultimately face death if left untreated. When your pet has heartworms, you’ll notice the following symptoms:
- Dry persistent cough
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Weight loss
- Swollen abdomen or pot-belly appearance
- Difficulty breathing
If you’ve noticed these symptoms in your pet, reach out to your veterinarian immediately.
How can I prevent heartworms in my pet?
The best way to protect your pet from the disease is to establish a prevention routine with your veterinarian. As there are few early signs of the disease, our team will recommend that your loyal companion be tested regularly. We usually administer monthly preventatives to our patients, especially during summer, spring and fall. Most heartworm preventatives also offer protection against other parasites like fleas, ticks and worms.
What treatment is available if my pet is positive for heartworms?
Our team will create a plan to get your pet to optimal health. Since the disease can take a toll on your pet’s overall health, we will stabilize their condition first. Your veterinarian may encourage you to restrict exercise as it can increase the risk of damage to the lungs and heart. We then administer treatment with an injectable drug. In advanced cases, it can take multiple doses to flush out the worms completely.