Heartworm disease is a serious, life-threatening disease of dogs and cats. Mosquitoes spread the disease by injecting the parasite into your pet at the time of the bite. After the infected female mosquito bites your pet, the heartworm migrates through the bloodstream and moves to the heart and adjacent blood vessels, maturing to adults within 6-7 months in dogs and eight months in cats. As many as 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms.
Until the early 1970s, the occurrence of heartworm disease in the United States was primarily confined to the southeastern part of the country. Today, heartworm disease is found almost everywhere in the continental United States.
Clinical symptoms of heartworm disease develop very slowly. Often symptoms are not noticeable until several years after the initial infection. Lack of energy and exercise intolerance are early symptoms. Coughing and difficulty breathing are both common symptoms. As the disease progresses, most dogs develop congestive heart failure. Dogs often collapse in the final stage of the disease. In cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to those of feline asthma. Some cats may exhibit no signs of the disease, while others may suddenly die.
Since heartworm disease is increasing in frequency and is a serious and deadly disease, we recommend that your dog be tested annually. This test is highly accurate, and we typically have the results in less than 10 minutes.
Heartworm disease prevention is simple. For dogs and cats, a once-a-month heartworm preventative can be given as a tasty, chewable treat, or as a liquid applied to the skin. This same medicine prevents not only heartworms from developing, but also kills and prevents several other types of worms/parasites.
If you would like to have your pet tested for heartworm disease, or if you would like additional information on how best to protect your pet and your family from these dangerous parasites, please call Hudson Highlands Veterinary Medical Group.