I am happy to welcome, Zara Lewis back to the blog. Zara has written for us a couple times now. She always has wonderful information to bring pet owners. If you enjoy her work, go check out Zara at highstylife.com where she is a regular contributor.
I have heard from a few people that heartworms are going to be a bigger problem this year than it normally is. Heartworm disease is very serious condition and we all need to take extra action on prevention this Summer. Zara is here to give you the low-down on everything you need to know to be a responsible and informed pet paw-rent by protecting your pet against heartworms.
Heartworms are a very serious and often fatal health issue in pets. Worms that live in the heart of an animal cause all sorts of heart, blood-vessel and lung issues, as well as damage other organs, which can be very dangerous to your pet’s health. Heartworms affect mostly dogs, but your kitty isn’t safe either! So, here’s everything you need to know about this nasty parasite to keep your four-legged companion healthy and happy.
How do animals get infected?
The main culprit for heartworm infection is the mosquito. Adult worms that live in an infected animal produce tiny baby worms that swim in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up these tiny worms that mature into larvae in 10 to 14 days. Now that the worms are in its infective stage, when the same mosquito bites a healthy animal, the parasites will enter the organism, mature to an adult heartworm and cause all sorts of health issues. It takes about 6 months for heartworm larvae to mature into adult worms, but once they do, they can live in your pet for years!
Dangers for dogs
The dog is the most common host for these parasites or the so-called ‘natural’ host. This means that most heartworm larvae mature into adult worms that mate and produce more heartworms. Some dogs have been diagnosed with several hundred heartworms in their body! But, no matter the number of parasites, they almost always cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, and lungs and permanently harm a dog’s health (even after the infection is eradicated). Because of the severity of health issues they cause, complicated and risky treatment and therapy that last your dog’s entire life, prevention is the best way to battle heartworm. Luckily, today you can buy dog supplies online, including various tablets, chewables and spot-on preventives that guard your pup against heartworm and other parasites. They are taken monthly during the mosquito season or all year round for the best prevention.
Dangers for cats
On the other hand, cats are atypical hosts for heartworm, which means that most worms don’t reach maturity in cat’s heart. Cats that are hosts to adult worms usually only have two or three parasites, but many have none. However, since even immature worms cause health issues, you should not neglect your cat and ignore tests and symptoms. Baby worms usually cause respiratory issues that can be noticed and addressed. There are also preventive measures for cats that protect your kitty from all sorts of parasites including heartworms, worms, and fleas.
The usual signs of heartworm infection in both dogs and cats are coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness, weight loss and even collapsing. As soon as you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, pay a visit to your vet.
The earlier the infection is discovered, the bigger the chances are that your dog or cat will completely recover. However, the symptoms aren’t always too visible and early signs are very hard to notice. The best way to detect heartworms in dogs is with a blood test that marks the heartworm protein and the test results usually come back very quickly. It’s much harder to test for heartworms in cats because they very rarely have adult worms in their heart. The best way to be sure your cat is indeed infected is to test for antigens and antibodies. An x-ray or a heart ultrasound is also quite a good way to detect heartworm infection in cats.
Therapy for infected animals
Dogs that are diagnosed with heartworms should stay away from too much physical activity and take some medication to stabilize the condition. Once your pet is stable, you can start with appropriate treatment. After the treatment (some 6 months later), your vet will order another heartworm test to see whether all the parasites left the body and recommend year-round preventive therapy that will stop heartworms from returning. On the other hand, there’s no real heartworm therapy for cats yet, but their symptoms can be alleviated with professional care. Your vet will provide fluids, tend to heartworm-caused organ diseases, administer drugs and even do a heartworm-removal surgery.
Now that you know what heartworms are and how they manifest, make sure to provide your pet with good prevention and conduct regular tests to ensure their health and happiness.