What Is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected while taking a blood meal from an infected animal. When the mosquito bites another susceptible animal, the infection actively migrates into that animal’s body.
Where Is Heartworm Disease Most Prevalant?
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states.
What Are The Signs Of Heartworm Disease?
For dogs and cats, clinical signs may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heart worms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of time and after repeated mosquito bites. Heavily infected dogs may eventually show signs of a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss. Cats may exhibit signs that are similar to other feline deceases. Severe signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss.
How Is Heartworm Disease Detected?
Heartworm infection is usually detected with blood tests, although testing may not show consistent “positives” until about seven months after infection has occurred.
How Is Heartworm Disease Prevented?
The good news is heart worm disease is preventable. Prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. There are a variety of options for preventing infection in both dogs and cats, including daily and monthly tablets and chewables, monthly topicals and a six-month injectable product available only for dogs. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease. Talk to you veterinarian about how to best protect your pet from this dangerous disease.
This information was supplied by the American Heartworm Society.