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Posted on 08-09-2018

Protect Your Dog or Cat from Heartworm Disease 

Heartworm Disease is transmitted to dogs and (less commonly) cats through the bite of an infected mosquito.  It is endemic (common) to our area and untreated infections can lead to irreversible health problems and even death. The best way to protect your pet from heartworm disease is to prevent it in the first place with the help of our veterinarians at Allenstown Animal Hospital.  We're committed to helping you keep your pet healthy and happy.

dog sitting outside

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm Disease is a parasitic infection. It is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. During their life-cycle inside of an infected pet heartworms can grow to a size of 12-inches or more in length. Heartworms typically live in the lungs and heart tissue, and untreated will lead to heart failure, lung disease, and other organ damage. Without the appropriate heartworm treatment, it can be fatal to an infected pet.  The disease affects cats and dogs differently and unfortunately, dogs are a natural host for the disease.

When a dog becomes infected, the small, microscopic parasites will travel through the bloodstream ultimately ending up in primarily the lungs and heart. Upon maturing to adults, the worms will reproduce inside your pet increasing the parasite burden. Heartworm disease is less common in cats; however, it does occur. If cats are diagnosed with heartworm disease, their body is most likely hosting 1-3 worms, but not in an adult form. For this reason, the disease often goes unnoticed in cats. There is currently no heartworm treatment available for cats. 

How to Prevent Heartworm

Heartworm Disease is almost 100% preventable through the use prescription oral medication given once a month to your pet.  This disease was very common until the introduction of these preventatives in the early 1990's.  With the warming of our climate it is now recommended that you give your pet heartworm preventative all year round.

There are also several things you can do to reduce the risk of your pet from getting infected by a mosquito:

  • Mosquitoes live and breed in standing water, so remove all stagnant water from your property.
  • Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from getting indoors.
  • Keep pets indoors, especially during the early morning and early evening when mosquito activity is highest.
  • Keep your pet on Heartworm Preventative all year long.

Heartworm Symptoms

Annual testing for Heartworm Infection is recommended for all dogs.  This is the best way of detecting the disease in it's early stages and, if infected, beginning the appropriate treatment process as soon as possible.  It should be mentioned that while there is a treatment for heartworm infection available that it is expensive, painful, and not without risk.  It is much easier and less expensive to give a preventative monthly than to treat an infected pet. 

If you notice any signs or symptoms of heartworm disease, it is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent soft, dry cough
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Inactivity
  • Difficulty breathing

Compared to dogs, symptoms of heartworm in cats may be even more subtle. Sometimes the first symptom is a sudden collapse caused by heartworm associated respiratory disease.

Contact Allenstown Animal Hospital for Heartworm Prevention

For more information about heartworm treatment and flea and tick prevention for your pet, contact Allenstown Animal Hospital. Call us at (603) 485-7133 to schedule an appointment with our Allenstown veterinarian.

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