Mosquitos can carry heartworm disease. Is your dog or cat at risk? Yes. But, can it easily be prevented? Yes.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease of dogs and cats. It is caused by parasitic worms that live in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally the heart. It is easily transmitted to your dogs and cats by just a bite from an infected mosquito. We live in an area where heartworm disease is common and diagnosed more often than we would like, so it is extremely important to beaware of it and prevent it.
If your cat or dog is suffering from a heavy infection of heartworms, they may eventually show clinical signs, which include persistent coughing, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite, and/or weight loss. Some severely infected pets may even collapse and die during exercise. However, infected animals may not show ANY clinical signs for up to 2 years. And it takes at least 7 months after being infected to show up on a blood test. Therefore, it is important to have your pet tested on a regular basis. Your veterinarian can easily test for heartworm disease in dogs by taking a small blood sample and you will receive the results within 10 minutes. If they are positive, additional diagnostics are required to stage the disease and develop an appropriate treatment plan. It is more difficult to diagnose heartworm disease in a cat and currently there are no approved products for treating it. There is one approved treatment in dogs, which has a high success rate, but is expensive and does have some risk involved. Fatalities are rare, but dogs with advanced disease are at a greater risk.
PREVENTION is the most effective tool! It is cheap and safe, whereas treatment is expensive and more risky. It is a simple oral tablet or topical medicine that you give your pet once monthly all year long. There are multiple products available for both cats and dogs. The bonus is that most of these preventatives also rid your pet of common intestinal parasites once monthly. And some are even flea preventatives. Discuss with your veterinarian what the best preventative is for your pet. For more informationon heartworm disease, speak with your veterinarian and visitwww.heartwormsociety.org.