Get Up Close With Heartworm Disease in Dogs & Cats

By | January 31, 2017

Overview of Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Facts To Know About Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Heartworm disease is a life-threatening illness that affects both dogs and cats. It is caused by worms that remain active in the right side of the heart and other neighboring blood vessels. It needs to be noted that the adult worms can grow up to 30 cm in length. Heartworms are caused by mosquitoes. That means that even if your furry pal does not come in contact with other animals, they can still have the parasite transmitted to them.

A mosquito bites the animal and he/she gets infected, resulting in passage of immature worms, i.e.; larvae or microfilaria to the pet. It takes six months for the larvae to transform into adults that reside in the heart and neighboring blood vessels. The problem is that these heartworm produce more larvae and the cycle goes on.

Facts Of Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats for Pet Parents

Let us now look at some of the facts about heartworm disease in dogs & cats:

  • Dogs are definitive hosts of heartworms. But these worms can infect almost 30 different animal species encompassing cats, foxes, coyotes, humans and ferrets.
  • Untreated heartworms live in dogs for almost 5 to 7 years while in cats the duration is 2 to 3 years.
  • There are no symptoms of heartworm disease in the initial stages. But as the disease progresses, most of the dogs start coughing and are not able to tolerate exercising. In the later stages they can collapse and die.
  • It is possible to prevent heartworm disease. There are various options available to dog owners from oral treatments like Sentinel, Revolution, etc. to monthly topical treatments like Revolution. There is also a six monthly injectable treatment known as Proheart 6. Remember, prevention of the disease is far better and cost-effective than cure.
  • Although heartworm disease is treatable, it can be extremely expensive. There is a drug known as Immiticide, an injectable arsenic based compound that is available in short supply. The pre-treatment commences with blood work, urinalysis, and chest radiographs.
  • It is recommended to have heartworm preventive treatment all year round for dogs because it provides an additional cover against heartworm disease. If there has been a gap of more than a month since you have missed out on giving the heartworm preventive treatment, then your pooch can potentially get infected by heartworms. The other reason is that there is a threat of heartworm looming even in the colder months of winter. The third and most important reason is that most of the heartworm preventive treatments also provide additional protection against intestinal parasites if given on a monthly basis. There are certain intestinal parasites that can be contagious to humans too.
  • It is important to test your doggy for heartworm on a yearly basis because the treatment for heartworm is not 100% effective. The other problem is that many dog owners forget to give monthly heartworm preventive treatments to their furry pals. It has been estimated that roughly around 55% of dogs in the USA alone are on some type of heartworm preventive treatment.

For more information about heartworm disease, contact your veterinarian today and educate yourself about this dreadful disease.

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