Importance of Heartworm Prevention

If you’ve been to a veterinarian’s office, chances are you’ve seen the photos on the wall of worms growing from the heart of a dog or cat. Although these images may be unsettling, the message is clear: heartworm disease is fatal to pets. The good news: you can protect your pet from this disease. The disease is preventable, which is why so many veterinarians become frustrated when a case presents itself. The disease is very serious and the treatment is not very easy on the infected animal(s). It’s far easier and healthier for the pet to prevent the disease in the first place.

Preventing Heartworm In Pets - Nashville TN

The Cause

Infected mosquitoes carry heartworms. One bite can cause the parasite to enter a pet’s body and mature into long worms (up to 12 inches in length) that live in the heart and major vessels surrounding the heart. Heartworm disease can affect dogs, cats, and other species of mammals. If left untreated, the disease leads to significant and deadly damage to the pet’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. Heartworm infection has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Heartworm disease is most prevalent for dogs in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. In cats, heartworm is not as common, but the consequences can be just as serious if not more so since the disease is much more difficult to treat in cats than it is in dogs. The disease isn’t contagious from one pet to another and heartworms in humans are very rare.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

While heartworm disease might not cause your pet to exhibit symptoms in the early stages, if left undetected and untreated, it can cause sudden death. In most cases, a pet will show no initial signs of having the disease. The symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs can include the development of a persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after light exercise and a decrease in appetite followed by weight loss, whereas the symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can include vomiting, rapid breathing and weight loss. The treatment of adult heartworms in cats is usually not recommended so prevention of the disease altogether is particularly crucial for cats.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your 5 Points Animal Hospital veterinarian will perform lab tests, such as a complete blood count and a urinalysis, before beginning treatment, which typically includes medications to end the lifecycle of the heartworms. During the treatment process—which can vary in length but usually lasts for a few months—your veterinarian will continue to perform routine blood work to monitor the progress of the treatment and will likely instruct you to limit your dog’s activity. After treatment, heartworm preventives will generally be recommended to prevent re-infection.

Heartworm is easily transmittable—in fact, heartworm can be passed through the bite of just one mosquito. Implementing a year-round monthly heartworm preventive, as well as a yearly heartworm test, is crucial for minimizing your pet’s risk of contracting heartworm disease. If you have questions about this or any medical topic, please contact the experts at 5 Points Animal Hospital today. We look forward to helping you with all of your pet’s needs.

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , | Comments Off on Importance of Heartworm Prevention

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