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Heartworm Disease

Hello and salutations. I, Demetri the Magnificent, am back! I have been traveling and exploring our wonderful state to gather information for all of you! Something has recently come up that I think everyone could use more information on. Heartworm Disease.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease in pets. It is caused by a foot long worm that lives in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets. This causes severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and in rare instances humans, are at risk of contracting Heartworm Disease.

Dogs are a natural host for Heartworms. This means the heartworms that live inside a dog, live to become adults, mate and reproduce. Untreated, their numbers can increase into the hundreds. Even after the parasites are treated and eliminated from the dog’s body, the damage cannot be undone.

heartworm_lifecycleCats are an atypical host for heartworms. That means that most worms do not survive into adulthood. Cats typically host 1-3 worms, unlike dogs who can host hundreds. This means that heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats. Worms that do not grow into full maturity can still cause damage in cats. Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD) is caused by immature worms. The medication that is used to treat heartworms in dogs cannot be used in Cats. The only way to protect a cat, is by using a heartworm preventative.
It’s important to watch for signs of heartworm disease in pets. Especially because catching it early is the key to minimizing internal damage brought on by heartworm disease. Let’s start with signs of heartworm disease in dogs. In the early stages, many dogs show few symptoms or none at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Signs include: Mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decrease appetite, and weight loss. As it progresses, pets can develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. When there are a large amount of worms a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart can lead to Caval Syndrome, which is a life threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.

Cats show different signs then dogs. They can be very subtle or very dramatic. This include: Coughing, Asthma like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss. In other cases it can cause the cat to have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign can be the last sign: sudden death.

Let’s discuss preventative. It’s important to get a heartworm test done at your local veterinarian’s office. According to the American Heartworm Disease Society, puppies under 7 months old can be started on heartworm preventative without a heartworm test. This is because it take 6 months to test positive after it has been infected. If they are older than 7 months old, they need to get a test done and then retested again in 6 months. It’s important to have a heartworm test done annually to ensure that the heartworm preventative is working. Although the preventatives are highly effective, they are not 100% effective.

Talk to your Veterinarian about the right product for you pet.

With that being said, I, Dimitri the Magnificent, will take my leave. Happy New Year to all of you and your magnificent pets.

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