Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition. It is caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart in dogs, cats and other species.
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitos. For example, a mosquito bites a dog. In turn, the mosquito bites another dog. The infective larva enters the dog through the bite wound. In a little over six months the heartworm larvae turn into worms. Believe it or not the worms can live up to seven years, causing havoc and illness.
If your dog has recently been infected it may not show any clinical symptoms. In other dogs, they may exhibit a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss. Cats on the other hand may have symptoms that can mimic many other illnesses. A blood test is the only way to be able to detect heartworm disease. The blood test must be done after the pet has been infected for seven months. Prior to seven months the heartworm test will not show enough larvae to test positive. This is also the reason that we do not test puppies prior to seven months of age. Test too soon and the larvae aren’t able to be seen.
The good news is that Heartworm is 100% preventable. Heartworm is treatable, however there are risks involved and is quite expensive. Prevention is the safest and easiest way to deal with heartworm disease. Many heartworm preventives also provide protection against internal parasites like roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms. As an added bonus most have some sort of flea protection. All of these parasites are harmful to your pets as well. Keep your pet parasite free. Give the heartworm preventative year round.