There are so many aspects that come with owning a pet. One of the major parts is making sure that our four-legged friend is kept happy and healthy. Here’s everything you need to know about heartworm disease to make sure you’re prepared.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious – and sometimes fatal – condition. They can grow up to a foot long and live in the heart of animals. Dogs are hosts for heartworms where they live and reproduce inside their hearts while cats are atypical hosts, meaning most worms don’t survive until they’re adults.
How is it transmitted?
Mosquitos are one of the worst offenders for spreading heartworms. They pick up baby worms from an infected animal and pass them on to another when they bite. It takes six months for the worms to grow from larvae to adults, and they can live for up to seven years inside a dog and just three in cats.
What are the symptoms in dogs?
The early stages usually have no symptoms. However, they typically develop a cough, weight loss, decreased appetite, and tiredness after exercise once the worms grow larger. Severe symptoms include pale gums or sudden labored breathing. These need immediate medical attention as it could mean your dog has a form a cardiovascular collapse, and they need an operation to remove the blockage.
What are the symptoms in cats?
Weight loss, a lack of appetite, and coughing are some symptoms that infected cats can show. However, some cats also have seizures, faint, or have difficulty walking. As the worms might not show signs in cats, owners may not realize their cat is infected until it’s too late.
How do you test heartworm disease?
The earlier you detect heartworm disease, the easier it is to treat. Vets can easily test your pet for heartworm. All they do is take a small sample of blood to look for any signs of heartworm in their body. Results are pretty quick, and a positive diagnosis could lead to further tests.
When should you test your pet?
Cats should be tested before they are put on any preventative medication as there is currently no approved treatment for felines if they do contract heartworm disease. Dogs can be checked annually and given preventatives from as young as seven months old without having any tests.
How do you treat heartworm disease?
Of course, prevention is better than cure. If your dog does get heartworm, they typically have restricted exercise, and your vet will write up a treatment plan depending on the severity of the disease. Although there is no treatment for cats, vets can usually help them to recover with a specialized program if they catch the disease early enough.
Although heartworm disease is a serious condition that can have dire consequences, learning all about the disease and how to keep your pet fit and healthy means we are one step closer to keeping them safe. Hopefully, preventing any risk will help eliminate any chances.