HEARTWORM DISEASE IN PETS
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs (and cats also), caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis
These worms are found in the chambers of the heart and adjacent blood vessels of infected dogs and cats. Heartworms range in
size from 3 to 14 inches long. One dog can have as many as 300 worms.
How do dogs get heartworms?
Dogs (and cats) get heartworms from the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests microfilaria during a blood meal. There are millions of microfilaria - young, or baby heartworms - in the bloodstream of infected dogs. These microfilaria cannot mature in the host animal, but must pass through a mosquito and into another host animal before it can mature into an adult heartworm. After an infected mosquito bites and injects microfilaria into another dog or cat, the microfilaria begins to grow into an adult heartworm, a process that takes 5-7 months. Note: people do not get heartworms from mosquitoes!
What do heartworms do to a dog or cat?
Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels leaving the heart. They also interfere with the action of the valves in the heart. By clogging the main blood vessels, the blood supply is reduced to other organs of the body, particularly the lungs, liver, and kidneys. The result can be permanent damage to the heart or any of these organs. Early signs include a dry, chronic cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness, and loss of stamina. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly due to exercise or excitement.
Is there a treatment for heartworms?
There is a treatment for dogs, but not for cats. There is some risk invoilved in treating dogs diagnosed with heartworm disease, but
fatalities are rare. Treatment is also fairly expensive. Although we can treat about 95% of dogs successfully, there is often permanent
heart or organ damage. Obviously, prevention is extremely important!
Prevention of heartworm disease!
Prevention of this terrible disease is actually quite simple. After an initial blood test to be sure your pet does not have an early case of heartworm disease, your veterinarian can prescribe effective prevention for dogs and cats. There are a few oral, chewable tablets that are given once a month, and a topical product that is used monthly also. The costs are essentially identical, and all treatments are very safe and effective.
So if you have mosquitoes where you live, or where you plan to travel (even if only for a short time!), contact your Veterinarian for more information,
and a prescription for your pet!
Reprinted by permission of Kingman Animal Hospital