April is National Heartworm Awareness Month! Heartworm disease is a serious condition where foot-long worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of pets that contract this parasite. This condition eventually leads to severe lung disease, heart failure, and organ failure. Mosquito’s that are infected with this parasite can easily bite another animal, thus transferring the disease. Without yearly heartworm preventatives, your pet is susceptible to this potentially fatal disease. Both cats and dogs can be affected, though the condition presents itself differently in the two.
Signs and Symptoms
In dogs, symptoms are minimal at the early stage, which is why preventative treatment is so crucial. As the disease progresses, symptoms will develop, particularly for dogs that are very active, are heavily infected, or have other health problems. Signs you may notice include fatigue, decreased appetite, weight loss, labored breathing, and more.
In cats, heartworm disease will either very obviously present itself or won’t at all. If the condition does show symptoms, they will include coughing, vomiting, lack of appetite, and more. Unfortunately, when heartworm disease does not show symptoms, the first sign can be sudden collapse or death.
Prevention and Treatment
Heartworm preventatives are the best way to protect your dog or cat from heartworm disease. Both cats and dogs should get a yearly heartworm preventative, starting as puppies and kittens. With this yearly preventative, they will also be tested for heartworm disease; if they have contracted heartworm disease, it will at least be caught early on.
If your dog or cat tests positive for heartworm disease, which is unlikely when they are on the heartworm preventative, there are treatment options. Dogs are much easier to treat, particularly if it is caught early. The veterinarians at Metro Vet will be able to properly diagnose and discuss treatment options for your dog. If your cat tests positive, treatment becomes more complicated, as cats are not ideal hosts for heartworms. Our veterinarians will be able to determine the best treatment plan for your cat depending on their exact diagnosis.
Overall, when you get a new pet, it is important that they are tested for heartworms, and begin a heartworm preventative regime as soon as possible. Contact Metro Vet to get started!
Courtesy of: American Heartworm Society