Many of you have heard about heartworm disease. If you have a dog, you know that we collect a blood sample once a year to make sure your dog doesn’t have the disease, but how much do you really know about the details of heartworm disease? Do you know how it spreads? How do we treat it? What can happen to your pet if it’s not treated? Did you know cats can get heartworm disease too?! Keep reading to find out all the answers!
April is Heartworm Awareness Month, so we wanted to take a few minutes to tell you more about the disease and how easy is it to prevent a potentially fatal situation.
The heartworm is a parasite that lives in the heart and surrounding vessels of our pets. It is spread by mosquitoes, so we typically see this disease more in the southern states, but as people are traveling more and taking their pets with them, we are seeing more heartworm disease in this area. Coyotes, wolves, and foxes can also become infected, meaning there may be a large reservoir of heartworm disease in our own backyard. It only takes one mosquito to bite those animals and then bite one of our pets for them to become infected. An animal infected with this parasite may not show any clinical signs for some time, so people may think their animal is okay when in reality, these worms are already causing damage to their heart and blood vessels. Animals with progressed heartworm disease may show signs of congestive heart failure (cough, exercise intolerance, lethargy) or more severe signs such as sudden collapse or even death. We recommend annual testing to make sure we catch this disease in the early stages before your pet has any long-term damage to his/her heart or lungs.
Check out this short video to learn about heartworm disease.
If a dog tests positive for heartworm disease, there is a treatment, but based on the level of the disease, the treatment can be very hard on the dog and is very expensive for the owner. Diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up can cost owners over $1,000 based on the size of their dog and the level of disease at the time of diagnosis. Cats are harder to diagnose, and there is no treatment at this time for cats.
The good news is, that heartworm disease is completely preventable! There are many once-a-month preventatives that you can give your dog or cat to prevent this fatal disease. These come as both an oral and topical application. You can talk to your vet about which type of prevention is best for your pet and lifestyle.
If you have any questions about heartworm disease or want to get your dog evaluated, please give our office a call to schedule your appointment, or request an appointment with the PetDesk app today!