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For Hernando County Animal Services, Inc.
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Heartworm Disease in Pets
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs, and sometimes cats, which is spread by a bite from an infected mosquito. It is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs of the body.
Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs include a mild, persistent cough, lethargy, reluctance to exercise or tiring easily after mild exercise, decreased appetite and weight loss.
In cats, most of the damage done by the heartworm is in the lungs. Cats are not typical hosts for heartworms, therefore fewer worms survive to adulthood. In cats, symptoms are more subtle and are often related to breathing difficulties, such as rapid breathing or coughing. Gagging, lethargy and anorexia may also be noted in cats.
Detection of heartworm disease in a dog is done by testing for an antigen or particle of the adult female heartworm. This is done by taking a small sample of your dog’s blood, which can be done during his annual visit to your veterinarian.
If your dog tests positive for heartworm, the disease can be successfully treated through supervised medical treatments given by your veterinarian. During the recovery period it may be recommended that exercise be limited. There is a risk of partial or complete blockage of the lung vessels by dead worms, which can be fatal.
There is no treatment for heartworms in cats.
Heartworm disease is completely preventable and it is the pet owner’s responsibility to protect their pets from this dangerous disease. Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive compared to treating a dog suffering from heartworm disease. There are a variety of options for the prevention of heartworm infection in cats and dogs, including monthly oral tablets and chewables, or monthly topical medicine. All of these methods are extremely effective when administered properly and on a timely schedule. ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR PET'S VETERINARIAN BEFORE USING ANY PRODUCT.
The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of a trained professional. Always consult a veterinarian regarding any health questions or concerns regarding your pets.