Posted by Lora Shaw on April 25, 2017
While virtually every pet owner has heard about the risk of heartworms, many of them don’t know much about the disease itself and why prevention is so important. At Pet Palace, we aim to change that. Learn what heartworms are, how they’re transmitted, and why vets so strongly emphasize prevention.
Heartworms are a type of roundworm. These foot-long worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring all while residing inside your pet’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The worms resemble cooked spaghetti.
Mosquitos transmit heartworms. Transmission occurs when a mosquito bites an infected animal, picking up baby worms in the blood. These baby worms mature into “infective stage” larvae during the next 10-14 days.
When the mosquito bites another animal, it deposits this infective larvae onto the surface of the animal’s skin. This larvae then enters the animal’s bloodstream through the bite wound. Within six months, the larvae matures into adult heartworms.
At first, dogs don’t display any symptoms. However, as the worms grow in number, most dogs start to develop a cough. Eventually, they become more winded and are unable to exercise the way they did in the past. Heartworm disease is very serious and if left untreated, dogs with heartworms will die.
Unfortunately, heartworm disease can be expensive to treat. Prior to treatment, dogs will need a pre-treatment workup that includes blood work and X-rays to assess the damage done by the heartworms. This workup can cost as much as $1,000, and the treatment itself costs around $300. For this reason, heartworm prevention is key.
Cats with heartworm are affected very differently than dogs. Because cats don’t make good host animals for the worms, cats with heartworm disease may only have 1-3 worms (rather than hundreds) that never reach the adult stage.
That being said, heartworm disease can still create serious problems for cats. Infected cats can develop Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). Additionally, cats with heartworm disease may show signs like vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for cats with heartworms, making prevention that much more important.
Heartworm infection is almost 100% preventable with proper care. To minimize your pet’s risk, the American Heartworm Society recommends having your pet tested once a year for heartworm and giving your pet a heartworm preventative every single month. Write it down on your calendar to make sure you follow through at regular intervals. Heartworm preventatives require a prescription, so bring your dog or cat to the vet first.
Having educated yourself on this disease, we hope you’ll make heartworm prevention a priority. We know how important it is to you to enjoy a long life with your pets!
And speaking of your pets, do you have any vacations planned this summer? If so, you’ll be happy to know we provide boarding services for dogs and cats. Simply click here to make a reservation or contact your local Pet Palace. We have one location in Indianapolis, Indiana, and four throughout Ohio in Columbus, Hilliard, Delaware, and Cleveland.
About the author
Lora Shaw is currently the Vice President of Operations at Pet Palace.