Pet ownership comes with a responsibility to understand the risks and threats our beloved furry family members face throughout their life. If you own a pet you are probably familiar with the risk heartworm disease poses, especially for dogs.
Heartworm disease begins to develop in unprotected dogs (those not on a heartworm preventative) when they are bitten by an infected mosquito and larvae (very small worms) are injected under the skin. The larvae are then on a mission to make it to the dog’s heart and will continue to grow and develop in stages in the dog’s skin, circulatory system, and finally into the pulmonary arteries. Approximately six months after an unprotected dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, larvae mature into adult heartworms, and the flow of blood is obstructed, making treatment inevitable. Symptoms of heartworm disease include a soft, dry cough, inactivity or lethargy, weight loss or anorexia, rapid or difficult breathing, bulging chest, allergic reaction, collapse. If you think your pet may have heartworm disease you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
As with any disease, the more heartworm disease carriers there are (carriers here are defined as the pets and animals, such as dogs, coyotes or wolves that have heartworm disease), the riskier it is for pets that are not on heartworm preventative. If there is a dog or other wild canine species in your neighborhood with heartworm disease, your dog has a higher risk of contracting the disease from mosquitoes in the area if left unprotected. Even missing a dose of their medicine will put them at risk.
We’ve talked a lot about dogs and heartworm disease and want to address the fact that cats can also get heartworm disease. Unlike dogs, cats are not “natural hosts” for heartworm disease which means that the heartworms are not as likely to make it to a cat’s heart in the event he or she is bitten by an infected mosquito. It does still happen though, and medication is the only way to keep your cat safe.
Most dogs infected with heartworm can be successfully treated, but it can be a grueling experience. Adult heartworm treatment involves deep muscle injections of an arsenic-based drug that kills the adult heartworms. Problems can arise when many heartworms are dying in the dog’s lungs and heart, possibly causing severe reactions. Treatment options should be discussed with your veterinarian if needed.
The proper diagnosis and treatment of heartworm disease in a dog can run from $1,500 to $2,000. Compare that to the roughly $100 a year it takes to protect a pet against heartworm disease and the answer is clear - the smart choice is prevention. There are no treatments for heartworm positive cats.
Visit a VetIQ Petcare location for the quality care you and your pet deserve. Detection and prevention are key to ensuring your pet are living a healthy life, and we’re here to help you get your pet tested and protected with medication. For more information about heartworm and pet health, refer to our website at www.vetiqpetcare.com.