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Protect your pet from heartworm disease

Heartworm disease can have devastating health effects on your pet. When it comes to heartworm disease, prevention is the best treatment. Avoiding heartworm disease consists of monthly preventative treatments and an annual heartworm screening test. At 5 Points Animal Hospital, your pet’s health is our top priority. We want to help you understand what heartworm disease is and what you can do to help keep your pet safe from heartworm disease.


What are Heartworms?sick German Shepard with doctors hand


Heartworms are parasites that are transmitted by mosquitoes when they bite your dog. When a mosquito bites your dog, it transfers heartworm larvae into your dog’s bloodstream. Once this happens the larvae will grow until they reach adult stage approximately seven months later. The adult heartworms will then move to your dog’s heart and lungs, where they will reproduce quickly, compromising your dog’s pulmonary system. Initially, there are no symptoms of the disease, but once the lungs and heart are infected, your dog may develop a cough, raspy breathing, and they will become winded easily when taken out for a walk. If not treated, heartworm disease, also known as dirofilariasis, is potentially fatal.  Some infected pets show no signs of heartworm disease.


Heartworm disease has been recorded in all 50 states, so there is nowhere in the United States where you can avoid this parasite. That’s why, no matter where you live, it is important to protect your pet from heartworm disease.


Preventative Treatment


It is impossible to tell if a mosquito is carrying the heartworm parasite. The best option for your pet is preventative care. This is done by giving your pet heartworm preventative every 30 days and making sure that your pet receives an annual wellness checkup and annual heartworm screening test. Because heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal illness, we at 5 Points Animal Hospital strongly recommend bringing your dog in for annual heartworm testing to ensure that your pet is free of the disease. The American Heartworm Association also recommends that pets be tested annually for heartworm disease even if they are on monthly heartworm preventative.


It is our goal at 5 Points Animal Hospital to help you to provide the best care possible for your pet.  Please ask your pet’s veterinarian which heartworm preventative would be right for your pet.

Our online pharmacy can be helpful for providing heartworm prevention that will protect your pet from heartworm disease.  You may also purchase your pet’s heartworm prevention in the clinic.

Please protect your dog from heartworm disease. If you have questions about heartworm disease or prevention or to schedule a wellness exam or heartworm testing call us today at 615-750-2377. We look forward to helping you protect your pet!

Understanding Heartworms

A serious condition that could potentially kill your pet? Heartworm disease! It can affect dogs, cats, and ferrets. This disease gets its name because it is caused by foot-long worms that live in the hearts of the affected animals. These worms can also be found in the lungs and associated blood vessels of these pets. This condition leads to even more serious health problems! These include lung diseases, heart failure, and organ damage. Understanding heartworms is key for prevention. So, 5 Points Animal Hospital would like to share with you some information from the American Heartworm Society (AHS) to help you prevent your pet from suffering from this condition.

According to the AHS, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Adult female heartworms produce baby worms that circulate in the bloodstreams of infected animals. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up those baby worms. Then, over the next two weeks, the baby worms develop into infectious larvae. The next time that mosquito bites another animal, that larvae can infect that animal through the bite wound. Once inside, the larvae can develop into adult heartworms within six months. Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in dogs and for two to three years in cats.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

For dogs, you may not notice any signs in the early stages of the disease. If your dog is active, heavily infected with heartworms, or has other health issues, he will show more pronounced symptoms. These include a persistent cough, decreased appetite, weight loss, and a lack of desire to exercise. For cats, you may notice coughing, asthma attacks, decrease in appetite, weight loss, or periodic vomiting.

Are heartworms more common in certain areas of the United States?

While heartworms have been found in all 50 states, certain areas do have a higher risk. These areas are the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and along river tributaries. Climate, the species of mosquitoes in the area, and the presence of mosquito breeding areas are all factors that affect the level of risk of heartworm infection.

How can I prevent heartworms for my dog or cat?

Every year, your dog should be tested for heartworm infection, even if he is on a year-round preventive medication program. According to the AHS, heartworm medications are very effective, but infections can still occur. 5 Points Animal Hospital can recommend heartworm prevention medication for your dog and for your cat that will protect them from this parasitic disease.

Prevention is key when it comes to heartworm disease. Contact us at 5 Points Animal Hospital to make an appointment today to have your pet tested for heartworms!

How Dangerous Is Heartworm to Cats and Dogs?

Heartworm disease—caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets—is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. It can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in your pet’s body. This disease has been known to affect dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, seat lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild foxes and coyotes have been known to live in close proximity to many urban areas, they’re considered important carriers of the disease.

Prevent Heartworm In Cats & Dogs - Nashville TN

Heartworms and Your Cat

Basic Information

Cats are what many would call atypical hosts for heartworms, with most worms not even surviving to the adult stage. It’s important to understand that even immature worms can cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Cats with heartworms that actually do survive to the adult stage typically have no more than three (3) worms; many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms at all. Because of this, heartworm disease in cats often goes undiagnosed. Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs can’t be used in cats; as such, prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

Warning Signs

The signs of heartworm disease in cats can range from very subtle to very dramatic. Symptoms may include:

  •  Coughing
  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Periodic vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Occasionally an affected feline may have a hard time walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sing in some cases is a sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.

Heartworms and Your Dog

Basic Information

Unlike their feline counterparts, dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, meaning that the heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If left untreated, their numbers can increase dramatically (dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies). Heartworm disease can cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after these parasites are gone. It is for this very reason that prevention is, by far, the best option, and treatment—when necessary—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Warning Signs

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms; some show no symptoms at all. The longer the infection is left untreated, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs that are heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show more advanced and noticeable signs of the disease. Symptoms may include:

  • A mild, persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

As the disease progresses, dogs may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen stomach due to the buildup of excess fluid. Dogs with larger numbers of heartworms can develop sudden blood flow blockages within the heart, ultimately leading to cardiovascular collapse (known as caval syndrome). Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it’s detected, the better the chances your pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by your vet is of the utmost importance. At 5 Points Animal Hospital, our well-equipped, in-house lab allows us to run a variety of diagnostic tests with results available in less than 30 minutes. This allows us to act quicker if heartworms are a problem for your pet.

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.

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