Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal illness found in many species. It can be easily avoided by pet owners through effective and inexpensive preventative treatments.
What is heartworm disease?
Dirofiliaria Immitis, is a parasitic worm, more commonly known as the heartworm. It causes a serious disease predominantly in dogs, but also cats and other mammals. It is found in all 50 states in America and there high incidents of it here in California.
How do my pets get heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is transmitted between animals via mosquitos. The disease is spread when a mosquito bites an animal that harbors the infective heartworm disease and then goes on to feed on another animal. When the infected mosquito bites the next animal it passes the disease along.
How would I know if my pet has heartworm disease?
Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in early stages. However, the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years.
Recently infected animals may show no signs of the disease. Heavily infected animals may show symptoms including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after simple moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
It is more difficult to detect signs in cats, as their symptoms are less specific to the disease.
Heartworm disease is usually identified by blood tests, however Ultrasounds and X-rays are often recommended for pets who are already known to be infected.
Heartworm disease is easily prevented. We recommend you visit or call your veterinary hospital to discuss different methods of heartworm prevention with one of our team.
The first step you should take would be to get your pet tested for heartworm disease. A heartworm test is a blood test which detects specific proteins that a heartworm produces.
If the test comes back negative, you can get started on preventative medicine. We recommend Proheart for our patients. ProHeart prevents heartworm disease in dogs for 6 months with just 1 injection given by your veterinarian. Proheart is extremely effective, and when administered properly on a timely schedule, heartworm can be completely prevented. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause the disease.
Treatment for heartworm disease is possible, however, it is a complicated and expensive process, taking months for infected animals to recover.
Usually, all but the most advanced cases of heartworm disease can be successfully treated in dogs. Currently, there are no products in the United States approved for the treatment of heartworm infection in cats. Cats have proven to be much more resistant hosts to heartworm than dogs, and often appear to be able to rid themselves of infection spontaneously.
Heartworm prevention is safe, easy, and inexpensive compared to treatment. Talk to your veterinarian today about starting a prevention program for your pets.