Heartworm Disease: What Every Pet Parent Should Know

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What is Heartworm Disease? Basically, heartworm disease is caused by worms (some as one foot long) living inside your pet’s heart, lungs or the blood vessels related to these vital organs. Heartworm disease is fatal, and it is widespread throughout the world. While some geographical areas are more prone to heartworm disease than others, pet parents everywhere should be cognizant of this killer of dogs and cats.

How Can My Pet Get Heartworm? As is the case in most easily transmitted diseases, the mosquito is the usual suspect. When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it deposits the heartworm larvae on the pet’s skin. The larvae enter the pet’s blood stream through the wound left by the mosquito bite. Once inside a pet’s body, the larvae work their way into the bloodstream and eventually take up residence in the heart or lungs.

Are Dogs or Cats More Prone to Getting Heartworm Disease? Typically, dogs are much more prone to being afflicted with heartworms than cats. And even though the worms can be eradicated, the damage done to a dog’s heart, lungs and other major organs may be permanent. For cats, heartworms usually do not live to the adult stage. However, even immature worms can cause serious damage to a cat’s respiratory system.

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Dogs? During the early stages, a dog may not display any symptom. As heartworm disease progresses, a dog might have the following symptoms: persistent coughing, no desire to exercise, constant fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss. In the case of dogs with a large number of heartworms, a dog may suffer a sudden loss of blood flow to its brain or organs – cardiovascular collapse. If your dog experiences the latter, take it to the veterinarian at once!

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Cats? Similar to a dog, an infected cat may exhibit loss of appetite, weight loss, and coughing.  A cat with heartworm disease will also have asthma-like attacks and vomiting. In some cases an infected cat will have fainting spells, seizures or difficulty in walking.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has Heartworm Disease?  If your dog or cat exhibits any of the above mentioned symptoms, you should take it to a veterinarian right away. Your vet will be able to properly diagnose your pet for heartworm disease.

How is Heartworm Disease in Dogs Treated? Once the presence of heartworm disease is confirmed, your dog will undergo a treatment that will include exercise restriction, stabilization of the disease, administration of medication, and repeated testing.

How is Heartworm Disease in Cats Treated? Unfortunately, there is no medication at this time for the treatment of heartworm disease in cats. The best one can do is to maintain the cat’s health and monitor it for advanced symptoms.

Is there any way to prevent heartworm disease in dogs and cats? Yes, currently there a good number of medications available in chewable tablet or topical forms. A preventative medication treatment program should begin as early as possible in your pet’s lifecycle. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the best possible treatment for your dog or cat.

For dogs, your veterinarian may prescribe one of the following preventative medications:
Heartgard Plus Chewables for Dogs, Sentinel, Tri-Heart Plus, Interceptor for Dogs and Cats , Revolution for Dogs, or Trifexis for Dogs : not only prevents heartworm disease, but it also kills fleas and controls adult hookworm, whipworm and roundworm infections.

For cats, your veterinarian may prescribe one of the following preventative medications:
Advantage Multi for Cats, Interceptor for Dogs and Cats or Heartgard Cat Chewables

To Sum It Up: Heartworm disease is transmitted to pets by a mosquito bite. Some geographical areas are more prone to heartworm disease than others. However, this fatal disease can be found just about anywhere. A preventative medication treatment is highly recommended to ensure your pet is free of heartworms.

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