What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious disease that can result in severe organ diseases such as lung disease and heart failure. It is a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, and is spread through the mosquitos.
Mosquitos carry the larvae and are transmitted to your pet through their bite. Larvae can take up to six months to mature, before travelling through the body to the heart, and blood vessels of the lungs. The risk of heartworm is extremely prevalent as it is hard not to come into contact with mosquitos.
Dogs have a large risk of developing heart-worm, but recent research suggests that cats have a similar risk. It is important to have regular health checks and to know the signs and symptoms to look for. Like any disease, prevention is an important factor and plays a major part in this disease.
How is heartworm disease diagnosed?
Heartworm can be diagnosed in a number of ways, such as blood tests, X-rays and ultrasounds. Regular vet visits are important as they can catch it quickly and minimise your pets distress or even death. Treating heartworm requires a series of injections with side effects lasting up to two months. Once the adult stages are killed, additional drugs may be needed to kill the younger larvae that have not developed into the worm stage.
What are heartworm disease symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of heartworm disease can be difficult to pick up. As it is a slow onset disease, months or even years can pass before symptoms become obvious. This is why regular vet checks are crucial to fight this disease.
Although the heartworm disease signs and symptoms are subtle, it is still important to understand what they could be.
Heartworm disease signs in dogs:
- Unenthusiastic towards exercising
- Persistent coughing
- Trouble breathing
- Abdominal swelling
- Weight loss
Heartworm disease signs in cats:
- Weight loss
Prevention of heartworm disease in Dogs
Prevention for dogs starts when they are just puppies. At the age of 12 weeks, you can either choose to give your puppy a monthly preventative or a heartworm injection. If a choose a heartworm injection, a further shot will be needed to be followed by an adult dose at 9 months of age. Heartworm injections are then given once a year thereafter.
Heartworm prevention is very misunderstood as the prevention treatment must be continued throughout the entire life of your pet. If you are unsure of what treatment is required or have missed a treatment, contact us today and find out your next move.
Prevention of heartworm disease in Cats
Treatment is highly critical, especially in cats. Cats are at a higher risk of complications if they catch heartworm, and as little as two heartworms can cause death.
There are two prevention methods used on cats, oral tablets, or topical treatments which are applied on the skin. Topical treatments are applied to the skin at the back of the neck. Both these methods require ongoing treatment, usually done monthly.
Heartworm in cats is scientifically more severe than dogs so it is crucial to continue with treatments for your pets lifetime.
Prevention of heartworm disease is a necessity in giving your pets the best life they deserve. It can cause your pet and yourself unwanted distress and even lead to death. Prevention is the best cure, and the earlier you are treating your pet, the less likely heartworm is able to develop. Treatment starts from an early age and spans throughout the lifetime of your pet.
Until next time, prevention is always the best cure!
Your friend and vet expert,