Heartworm Awareness Tips from Our Edmonton, AB Veterinarian
The bad news is that heartworm disease is a potentially life-threatening condition. The good news is that it is 100 percent preventable, according to our Terra Losa Animal Clinic veterinarian in Edmonton, AB.
Why Awareness is So Important
Foot-long heartworms residing in a pet’s heart and lungs, along with their associated blood vessels, cause this progressive disease and can damage many organs. Heartworms affect cats and dogs, along with other mammals such as ferrets, foxes, and coyotes. Mosquitoes transmit the parasite between animals.
Once parasite larvae reside in a new host, they mature into adult worms in around six months. They live for as many as seven years in dogs and as long as three years in cats. Worms cause damage to an animal’s blood vessels, lowering the ability of the heart to pump and causing severe heart and lung disease. Since mosquitoes can enter homes, even strictly indoor pets are at risk and should undergo testing.
The sooner veterinarians diagnose heartworms, the greater the odds that pets will survive it. For pets with negative tests, preventives are available as pills, injections, or topical medications. Some preventives also protect against specific intestinal parasites.
For infected dogs, several medications can eliminate heartworms. Veterinarians administer them only at animal hospitals to monitor risks and to reduce the likelihood of side effects. They reserve surgical removal of heartworms for severe infections. Since it is not possible to use these medications to treat cats, the only way to protect them is prevention.
Dog vs. Cat Infections
Although a dog is a natural host for heartworms, a cat is not. The disease behaves differently in each species.
In the early stages, many dogs show only a few symptoms and sometimes none. Common signs include:
- Mild, persistent cough
- Avoiding exercise
- Fatigue following moderate physical activity
- Appetite decrease
- Weight loss
As the illness progresses, heart failure, a swollen belly due to excessive abdominal fluid, or cardiovascular collapse might occur.
Most heartworms in cats die before maturity. Unlike dogs, which sometimes have hundreds of mature worms, felines usually have three or fewer, making the disease more difficult to diagnose. Even immature worms can cause a serious condition called heartworm-associated respiratory disease.
Signs of this illness in cats vary in severity. The most common include:
- Attacks that resemble asthma
- Sporadic vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
Less common are trouble walking, seizures, fainting, and an accumulation of abdominal fluid.
Call to Schedule an Appointment with Our Edmonton Veterinarian
Protect your pet from the risk of heartworms. Terra Losa Animal Clinic can provide all the services your dog or cat needs to stay healthy. Terra Losa Animal Clinic is a full-service Edmonton veterinary hospital. Call us today at 780-484-1178 to schedule an appointment.
Have you had your pet evaluated for a heartworm infection?