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!

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