Heartworms are a type of parasite that can live inside dogs and cats for months or even years. Pets get heartworms when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. The disease can be deadly especially for dogs. If dogs don't receive urgent treatment they can develop congestive heart failure where their heart cannot pump enough blood.
How do heartworms affect my dog or cat?
Heartworm disease symptoms will look different for cats and dogs. In cats, the disease will cause mild or severe vomiting, weight loss, coughing, and asthma-like symptoms. Canine pets don't often show symptoms in the early stages of infection. As the worms grow and multiply your dog will eat less, have severe coughing, develop a swollen abdomen, rapid weight loss, fatigue, fainting, and lose interest in activities they once loved. In both animals the disease can cause serious health issues. It's important that dogs get treatment immediately as the disease can result in death. Cats have no approved treatments, but your veterinarian can provide medication to help manage their symptoms.
How are heartworms diagnosed in pets?
A sample of your pet's blood is collected to test for heartworms. Female worms will release proteins that end up in the bloodstream. Other diagnostic testing such as X-rays and ultrasound may be performed to assess the size of the heart and how well it's functioning.
Can I protect my dog or cat from heartworms?
Since it's so easy for an infected mosquito to bite your pet, prevention is their best protection. Cats and dogs should be on a year-round prevention plan which includes regular deworming and preventative medication. Preventives come in oral or topical forms and administered monthly. There is also an injection that offers dogs protection for up to 6 months. To get your pet started on a heartworm prevention plan, please call us at 705-431-5570.