One of the most devastating diseases your cat or dog can get is heartworms. As these parasites invade your pet’s heart and lungs, they lead to fatigue, respiratory problems, and if left untreated, death. That’s why it’s crucial to learn about heartworms, their affects, their treatment, and most importantly, their prevention.
How Heartworms Spread
Heartworms are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell whether a mosquito is a carrier of heartworms, so it’s important to have a heartworm prevention program in place.
The good news is because heartworms can only be contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito, it can't be spread directly from pet to pet. But a heartworm positive dog is a source of infection for the mosquitos that CAN transmit the disease. So, focusing on getting your pet well again is best for your entire pet family.
Recognize Warning Signs
Initially, there are no symptoms with heartworms. It takes about seven months after a bite from an infected mosquito for the transmitted larvae to mature into adult heartworms. (A single bite can transmit up to 5 larvae.) They then lodge in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length and can live 5-7 years.
As the worms damage the heart and lungs, your pet will develop a cough. They won't be able to exercise as much as before; they'll become winded easier. As it progresses, the heart and lung function begin to fail. There will be abnormal lung sounds and fluid retention in the chest and abdomen. Most animals will die if the worms are not treated before this stage, so early detection and treatment is a must.
The safest way to treat heartworms includes extensive pre-treatment workup, including X-rays, blood work, and all the tests needed to establish how serious the infection is. Then the dog is given a series of injections of Immiticide, the industry standard drug for killing heartworms.
Your pet needs to be kept calm and confined during treatment. This is because the dying worms in your pet’s lungs and heart break up into pieces before being flushed from your pet’s body. These dead worms can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and cause death. This is more likely to occur if you allow your pet to exercise and get excited for months after the treatment. So, confinement is a very important part of the treatment process.
In cats, heartworms are the one of the most common causes of "sudden death" They will often have no warning signs. There is no safe way to treat heartworms in cats, it can only be managed. So prevention is essential.
Prevention is crucial when it comes to heartworms. Treatment is expensive and time consuming, but prevention is easy and affordable. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has never been more true than when it comes to heartworms.
Because a dog that already has heartworms could have a severe reaction to the preventative, it is important to have them checked before the starting this mediation
It’s also important to note that an animal who has had heartworms in the past can get heartworms again, so make sure you stay on top of your heartworm prevention program for all your pets. In this area, pets need to stay on heartworm preventative all year round!
Get Started Today
Heartworms are hard to treat, requiring costly medication and long periods of confinement for your pet. However, they are also easy to prevent. Call Cliffdale Animal Hospital at (910) 487-5013 now to start your pet’s heart worm prevention program.