Heartworms are a type of parasite that can cause long-term damage to your pet’s health. The worms are more commonly found in dogs, so testing and treatment are more focused on them. This doesn’t mean that cats are immune to heartworms; they are simply less likely to suffer. Cats aren’t ideal hosts for heartworms, so the infection usually resolves on its own. At Lauzon Veterinary Hospital, we are experienced in parasite prevention and control. We can give your furry friend the protection they need from heartworms.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is the infestation of worms in your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels. The disease can cause organ failure and even death in severe cases. Your pet gets heartworms through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes carry baby worms that develop into larvae after 10 to 14 days. The larvae are passed to your pet when they are bitten. Once inside your pet, it takes six months for them to fully develop and reproduce. Heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and 2 or 3 years in cats.
What are signs that my cat or dog has heartworms?
Heartworm disease is more prevalent in dogs as they are better hosts. This means dogs will experience more severe symptoms when they are infected. Signs of heartworms in your dog include persistent cough, decreased appetite, weight loss, swollen belly, and reluctance to exercise. If your dog has many worms, they may experience blockages of blood flow in the heart, which can cause death. Your pet will have difficulty breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-coloured urine in these situations.
Even though cats aren’t often diagnosed with heartworms, they can still be infected. The symptoms they experience can be subtle or dramatic. Your cat may have coughing, asthma-like attacks, fainting, loss of appetite, seizures, and vomiting.
Please get in touch with us at 519-948-7727 if you see these signs in your pet.
When should my pet be tested for heartworms?
Regular testing is crucial because pets can go months without showing signs of an infection. Detecting the worms early means they will be easier to get rid of. To detect heartworms, a sample of your pet’s blood will be collected and checked for heartworm proteins. Dogs should be tested every 6 to 12 months before they begin preventatives.
How can I protect my pet from heartworms?
Prevention medication is the best way to protect your pet from heartworms. Preventatives can be in the form of liquid, tablets and vaccines. When your pet is prescribed medication, it must be taken exactly as recommended, as late or missed doses can leave them vulnerable.