What is heartworm disease? Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal illness that occurs in pets and is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that infect and live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets causing severe damage to the organs it inhabits. Heartworm disease can affect many different kinds of pets from ferrets, dogs, cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and in some cases, humans.
Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms that will live in the bloodstream. A mosquito that bites the infected animal then takes a blood meal picks up these baby worms, which develop into larvae within 10 to 14 days. When the infected mosquito bites a susceptible animal, the larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.
Heartworms in Dogs: Most dogs show no symptoms. In heavily affected dogs, symptoms include mild persistent cough, fatigue, lessened activity, decreased appetite, weight loss, heart failure, fluid filled abdomen, cardio-vascular collapse. Cardiovascular collapse called caval syndrome is accompanied by the onset of pale gums, labored breathing, and dark or coffee colored or bloody urine. Immediate removal is required.
Heartworms in Cats: Symptoms in cat include coughing, asthma attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss. On occasion the infected cat may have difficulty walking, fainting, seizures, or fluid in the abdomen. More often, the first sign is often sudden collapse or death.
How to prevent: Have your pet tested yearly and give preventative treatments every 6 months even during cold or winter months. Talk to your vet to see what options are suitable for your pet. In many cases, Proheart 6 is the preferred treatment. Given as a shot, you will no longer miss doses and also treats hookworms. Additionally, Proheart 6 is also FDA approved.
Find out more here or call us (714) 921-8700 and schedule an appointment with your vet to find the right solution for your pet!
(via American Heartworm Society)
Yorba Regional Animal Hospital