Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition.
The disease is a blood parasite that is spread by mosquitoes and infects dogs and cats. The tiny worms settle in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals, maturing into larger adults (AHS.com). Over time, the inflammation in the lungs blocks blood flow and eventually heart failure develops. Dogs and cats of any breed are susceptible to infections.
Early in the course of the disease, most dogs and cats do not have significant symptoms but serve as a source of infections to other animals. For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages because the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes even years, after repeated mosquito bites, (ToledoBlade.com/AHS.com).
Heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss. Heavily infected cats may show signs including vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss.
According to a recent article published by ToledoBlade.com, treatment for heartworm disease is in very short supply, which means that dogs that are diagnosed may not be able to receive treatment until a more consistent supply of the medicine is available. This results in damage from the untreated infection, shortening the lives of infected dogs.
Due to the shortage of treatment, prevention is even more important. Prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive. The AHS recommends that pet owners take steps NOW to talk to their Veterinarian at The Bregman Vet Group about how to best protect their pets from this dangerous disease.
There are a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection in both dogs and cats, “including daily and monthly tablets and chewables, monthly topicals and a six-month injectable product available only for dogs. All of these methods are extremely effective, and when administered properly on a timely schedule, heartworm infection can be completely prevented,” (AHS.com).