Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm in dogsWhen it comes to preventive care for our pets there is one serious, common disease that can be prevented,  or if detected early it can be treated successfully. The mere thought of it makes most of us queasy, but if a pet is infected it can result in a struggle to survive. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal illness for cats, dogs, and ferrets, as well as other animals. It is caused by worms (heartworms) reaching up to 12 inches that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of affected animals resulting in lung disease, heart failure, or other organ damage. Whitworth Animal Clinic tests and treats pets from Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding Madison County areas. Schedule an appointment today to make sure your pet is healthy and free from disease!

How Does Your Pet Get Heartworm?

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes carrying the parasite Dirofilaria Immitis. When an infected mosquito bites an animal, larvae are transmitted into the bloodstream and eventually settle in the heart, arteries, blood vessels, and lungs after a period of months. Ultimately it only takes one bite to spread Heartworm disease to your pet!  Cats and dogs who spend a significant amount of time outside are most at risk, as well as those indoor pets who live in particularly mosquito-dense areas, in particular southern states. Although this sounds scary, heartworm disease can be avoided altogether with the necessary preventative measures.

Symptoms of Heartworm

Signs of heartworm disease can be very subtle or very severe depending on the case. Symptoms may include persistent cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, decreased appetite, vomiting, and weight loss. As the disease progresses, an animal may experience fainting, seizures, difficulty walking, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Kittens, puppies, and senior pets face the highest risk of developing the more severe symptoms. It takes approximately 6 months after being bitten by an infected mosquito for your pet to test positive for heartworm. A diagnosis at Whitworth Pet Clinic can be conducted through physical examinations and running blood tests.

Treatment Options

For dogs in the US, there is treatment available. Unfortunately for cats in the US, there is currently no approved treatment. The good news, however, is that many Heartworm infected cats are able to fight the infection themselves and can be monitored every few months, while waiting out the worms’ lifespan. Medications can also be given to help alleviate some symptoms, such as coughing and vomiting. There are several FDA-approved medications on the market today for both cats and dogs. Your pet should begin a heartworm preventative around 8 weeks of age, and medication should be taken year-round. Dogs should be tested for Heartworm every 12 months and regular check-ups for all pets are key to early detection.

Personalized Care For Your Pet

Heartworms are a very serious infection that require precise measures that work. These roundworms affect all animals in different ways. April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, but Whitworth Animal Clinic serving pet patients in Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding North Alabama area is committed to work with you year round to ensure that your pet is free of heartworms. Call (256) 830-1503 today and schedule an appointment to have your pet tested – it could save their life!

Read more about Heartworm in dogs from the US Food and Drug website.