Pet owners with active and healthy dogs do not always realize that even their canines are susceptible to heartworm disease. Heartworms are parasites that take up residence in your pet’s heart, in their lungs, and the blood vessels that lead to both. Heartworms in dogs will multiply, infesting these vital organs, and can cause tremendous damage. Without proper attention, they will eventually be fatal.
How Do Heartworms Get into My Dogs?
Mosquitoes are more than whiny, itchy pests. They carry heartworms, their larvae, and eggs when they feed off infected animals. Heartworms are deposited in your pet during an exchange of blood when an infected mosquito visits them for its next meal.
Heartworm and Cats
Although heartworms can also take up residence inside our feline friends, cats are terrible hosts for heartworms. They may not develop a large population of heartworms, but cats can still suffer devasting damage if not treated. Treatment for cats is different than for dogs but still requires veterinary attention.
What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm in My Dog?
Untreated, the heartworm population will grow, invade the heart and lungs, and cause blockage to blood flow throughout your pet’s body. Consequences of heartworm infection can be:
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased interest in activity
- Loss of appetite
- Fluid retention
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
It’s important to know that early infections do not cause symptoms. It’s only after the worms have reproduced to numbers that begin to affect your pet’s health that symptoms appear.
After a thorough examination and blood tests are complete, your veterinarian can prescribe a course of therapy to stabilize the disease. Your veterinarian will then inject your pet with a medication that will kill the heartworms. However, as the heartworms die, they pose a further threat to the life of your pet. They travel through the bloodstream in small pieces, which can cause more blockage.
Activity is discouraged during treatment. Your veterinarian will let you know when it’s safe to exercise your pet.
The entire process can take nine months or more, so prepare for a long recovery. Keep in mind that damage done to organs may not be reversible.
Even though the parasite preventives will kill new heartworms, the others will still be active and causing severe health complications for your pet. Talk to us before administering a parasite preventive to treat heartworm disease.
Prevention is the key to keep your pets free from heartworms. Heartworm prevention means:
- A heartworm test at each wellness visit will tell if your pet has been infected.
- Early diagnosis and early treatment give your pet the best chance of surviving heartworm disease.
- Let us prescribe the appropriate preventive medication for your pets.
- Follow the directions to administer parasite preventives.
- Never miss a dose! A missed dose is an open opportunity for heartworms to get into your pet.
Heartworm disease will have catastrophic effects on your pet’s health. Be sure to protect your pets all year long to prevent heartworm disease. Schedule a wellness visit with Mobile Vet M. D. today, and let’s talk about parasite prevention for your household pets.