Heartworm can be a serious threat to pets.
Heartworm can be very painful to pets
Injections from a veterinarian are just one course of treatment for heartworm in dogs
Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm (Dirofilaria immitis) that infects dogs and other animals. The heartworm larva is carried by mosquito from host to host where it then proceeds through a variety of life stages. As a young adult, the heartworm takes up residence in the right ventricle of the host’s heart where it grows to impressive lengths. It is of the greatest concern in canines where it more frequently leads to serious repercussions.
Many dogs, particularly sedentary ones, will exhibit no signs of infection. Others will develop a cough, particularly upon exertion, and may tire easily. Animals with severe infestations may cough up blood, lose significant amounts of weight, pass out, and eventually develop congestive heart failure.
In some cases a blood test can detect the presence of heartworm if the infection has reached the stage where symptoms are present (usually 6-8 months after the initiating mosquito bite). In some cases, x-rays may be ordered to determine the extent of the damage caused by the infection.
Medications are available to treat the infection, however these can be harsh. During treatment and for an extended time thereafter, the animal will be required to rest in order to allow the dead worms to be absorbed into the system. Dead worms that break off prematurely can be carried to the lungs where they can cause damage. On rare occasions, surgery is suggested.
Due to the potential severity of both the disease and its treatment, prevention is a step all dog owners across the contiguous U.S. should practice. Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian on preventive medication. Since mosquitoes are the transmitters of heartworm, mosquito control is another important step pet owners can take in preventing infection. Mosquito control measures are outlined on our mosquito page.
Heartworm in cats.
Cats’ systems aren’t particularly hospitable to heartworms, so infection is much less a concern. However, some cats do get heartworm and it can be serious or fatal. Talk to your veterinarian regarding heartworm concerns and practice mosquito control measures.