Rex: Heartworm Disease is a very serious, sometimes fatal disease in pets in the United States and other parts of the world. Pardon our squeamish readers, but it is caused by foot-long worms, known as heartworms, that live in the heart, lungs and other blood vessels of animals that are affected. This can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to organs in the body. WOOF.
CJ: Yuck! And how do those heartworms enter the infected host in the first place?
Whiskers: Meow; Mosquitoes are the culprit here. When a heartworm lives in an infected animal, it releases baby worms that circulate around the host’s bloodstream. A mosquito that sucks the blood out of the animal will carry these baby worms, which turn to larvae, and drops them off to a new host when they bite again. It then takes about 6 months for those babies to turn into adult heartworms.
CJ: Hmm… So what are the signs or effects of Heartworm Disease?
Whiskers: Well it’s different for cats and dogs.
Rex: That’s right, Whiskers. Dogs will show no signs of infection in the early stage of Heartworm Disease. Give it more time, and owners should notice a mild persistent cough, an aversion to exercise, fatigue after activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
Whiskers:The effects that Heartworm Disease has for cats can go from 0-100. Cat owners should look out for asthma-like attacks, vomiting here and there, lack of appetite, fainting, seizures; heartworm for cats can even sudden death.
CJ: WOOF. This disease seems scary!
Rex: It’s definitely a cause for concern, but there are ways to stay on top of this infection. One of them is through annual testing at the veterinarian. Heartworm Disease is something that gets worse over time, so even getting it diagnosed within the first year will save your pet from a lot of pain.
Whiskers: Testing in cats can be a bit more complicated because it’s harder to tell whether or not they have an infection. This is part of the reason why prevention is so key.
CJ: It sounds like prevention is important for both species. So how can an owner prevent the spread of heartworm from getting to their furry best friend?
Whiskers: In addition to annual testing, owners should talk to their pet’s veterinary care provider about taking a monthly heartworm preventive. Meow. These two strategies are the most recommended method of heartworm prevention.
Rex: Couldn’t have said it better myself – woof!