The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends

Protecting Your Pets: Heartworm Disease

In our newest Humane Education Blog series, ‘Protecting Your Pets,’ we will discuss a variety of issues that all pet owners should be aware of. Keep reading to find out how to best protect your pets!

You have probably heart of heartworms before – they sound rather unpleasant but do you really know how they can affect your pet’s health?

 

Heartworm disease is a serious, life threatening condition in dogs and a major cause of heart disease in cats. It is caused by the presence of the adult stage of the parasite Dirofilaria immitis in the pulmonary arteries and the right ventricle of the heart.

Sounds serious, right? It most definitely is. Heartworm disease can be fatal for your pet BUT is completely PREVENTABLE!

How is heartworm disease transmitted?

It only takes 1 bite from an infected mosquito to transmit heartworm disease to your pets. And there are 22 different mosquito species in the U.S. that carry heartworms. Once bitten, it can take between 3-6 months for the heartworm microfilariae to reach your pet’s heart. Once there, they mature and begin to reproduce.

Diagnosis of heartworms is by a blood test.  Yearly blood tests are recommended for all dogs and cats including those on preventative medication.

Adult heartworms can grow anywhere between 6-12 inches long and can live in the heart for up to 7 years! Doesn’t sound too nice, does it? It can be a painful experience for your pet with advanced symptoms including: difficulty breathing, coughing, tiring easily, listlessness, weight loss, and fainting. If you think your pet may have heartworms, take him or her to your local veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Heartworm Life Cycle:

Heartworm in dogs is treatable – your dog will be given a series of injections by your veterinarian that will kill the heartworms. As the worms begin to die, they will break up into small pieces which can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and cause death. This is why it is absolutely necessary to keep your pet calm and quiet during heartworm treatment and for the few months after treatment has been administered.

There is no current medication approved for treating heartworm disease in cats. Prevention is absolutely necessary for our feline friends just like Oscar (seen below) !

Remember: Heartworm prevention is much less expensive than treatment. Treatment can cost up to 15X more than a year’s worth of heartworm preventative. You will also be saving your pet from a painful experience by preventing heartworm disease in the first place.

For more information about the Houston SPCA please visit our website: www.HoustonSPCA.org

Sources: American Heartworm Society, VCA Hospitals and PetMD.com

 

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