Our cats and dogs offer unconditional love, so shouldn’t you do your best to take care of his or her heart?
Cats and dogs can become infected with heartworm from mosquito bites. All cats and dogs are susceptible to heartworm, no matter their age or state of health. It is important to protect your pet regardless of where you live as heartworm disease has been found in every state.
When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it transmits heartworm larvae, which mature into long adult heartworms that can live in the heart and surrounding vessels for several years. The number of heartworms living within the heart can be astounding; up to 250 heartworms have been found in a single dog. Pets treated for heartworm don’t develop immunity and can be reinfected at any time by another mosquito bite, so prevention after treatment is essential.
While many pets don’t display symptoms in the early stages, a dog with heartworm disease can show signs including: coughing, fainting, weight loss or difficulty breathing. If left undetected and untreated, heartworm disease can cause sudden death by blocking blood flow to the heart. In dogs, heartworm treatment involves slowly killing the worms without harming the pet. Cats tend to have fewer worms, but their effect can be just as devastating. Currently, no heartworm treatment exists for cats.
Luckily, heartworm disease is completely and easily preventable. Administering an oral monthly heartworm preventative, or having your veterinarian give an injection every six months, will kill immature heartworms before they mature and are able to inflict damage to the pet.
The experts at Banfield Pet Hospital (www.banfield.com) suggest pet owners get their pets tested for heartworms and then discuss prevention or treatment if necessary. The test is quick and simple and requires only a drop of your pet’s blood. Only a veterinarian can prescribe heartworm preventive, and he or she will make sure your pet gets the appropriate protection.