Heartworm disease is transmitted to pets via mosquitoes. These worms develop and lodge in an infected pet’s heart and pulmonary artery, where they cause illness and even death. It is important to realize that even though heartworms are more common in dogs, they are even more deadly to cats. The good news is that the disease is 100% preventable. There are safe, effective and easy-to-administer heartworm preventatives that actually offer protection against other parasites as well. All pets need protection, as infestations have been reported in all 50 states and the number of incidences increase each year.
In dogs, the worms live in the heart and large blood vessels around the heart and lungs, where they damage tissues and lead to heart failure and pulmonary disease. In some cases, the worms can obstruct other large blood vessels, leading to liver failure and kidney disease. In cats, the worms are found in the heart, lungs, or pulmonary arteries. While cats are less susceptible to heartworm infection than dogs, their body’s reaction to the worms can be more intense. Feline patients can become severely ill or even die suddenly from just one or two worms.
Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito carrying the microscopic heartworm larvae. Mosquitoes become carriers by biting an already infected animal and then subsequently biting other healthy ones. As a result, heartworm disease is a problem virtually everywhere there are mosquitoes. As you know mosquitoes easily get indoors, so all animals regardless of their age, size or breed are at risk.
A simple blood test can detect whether or not your pet has been exposed to heartworm infection. This test is necessary to ensure that your pet is free of disease prior to beginning any preventative medications. Although these medications are completely safe when given to a disease-free animal, several complications could arise if given to an infected animal. The heartworm preventatives offered are simple, easy to administer monthly doses that not only protect your animal from heartworm disease, but other parasites as well.
Even though heartworm disease is treatable, it is costly and can produce several side effects. For these reasons, prevention is a better approach to the disease. Unfortunately, in cats the disease is much more complicated to treat because the side effects, such as blood clots and fluid in the lungs, are much more serious. Therefore, instead of treatment, supportive care such as steroids and oxygen therapy, is offered to help your cat cope with the disease.
In some dogs and cats with heartworm infection, there may be no clinical abnormalities whatsoever. This is why periodic screening is so important. Many cats that die suddenly from heartworm disease have been seemingly healthy up until the time of death. It is also important to realize that these symptoms are not specific to the disease and can be signs of other illnesses.
In dogs signs include:
- Deep chest cough
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Abdominal distension or bloating
- Labored respiration
- Weight loss
In cats signs include:
- Coughing or gagging
- Breathing problems
- Weight loss
- Sudden death
Call Franklin Ranch today at (916) 683-4000 to discussion heartworm prevention for your pet.