Heartworms are parasites carried and spread by mosquitoes. When a dog is infected, they can develop heart failure which can lead to death. Cats are not the best hosts for heartworms, but they will experience respiratory issues when infected. If the worms aren’t treated promptly, they will multiply and cause serious health issues. Treating heartworms can be expensive and tedious for pets – this is why our hospital offers heartworm prevention. Pets should begin prevention no later than 8 weeks of age and be tested regularly even while on preventatives.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Signs of heartworm disease will vary based on how long your pet has been infected. The longer the worms stay inside your pet, the more they multiply and cause long-term damage. Here are some symptoms of heartworm disease:
- Weight loss
- Swollen, fluid-filled abdomen
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Reluctance to exercise
- Decreased appetite
How are heartworms detected in pets?
The veterinarian will perform a blood test to determine if your pet has heartworms. As the worms mature and reproduce inside your pet, they release proteins that will get into their bloodstream. The disease is often detectable five months post-infection, which is why regular testing is essential. When your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, we may perform additional testing like X-rays to assess the state of their internal organs. To schedule a heartworm test for your pet, please contact us at 705-322-2661.
How does heartworm prevention differ from treatment?
Prevention is important as the chances of your pet getting bit by an infected mosquito are high. Your pet can take monthly preventatives in the form of pills, injections, or topical medication. Prevention medication is effective against larvae deposited by the mosquito. If the worms develop to an immature adult stage, your pet will need treatment. Heartworm treatment medication is only available for dogs. The process can be difficult depending on how many worms are inside your pet and how long they’ve been infected. Veterinarians will recommend a series of injections to rid your pet of the worms and other medications to make the treatment successful and reduce any side effects.