Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. However, it can be prevented with monthly preventative. Heartworms are transmitted by infected mosquitos and are injected into the pet when the mosquito takes a blood meal from it’s natural host, the dog. These immature heartworms will circulate and develop in the bloodstream of the dog for months. Once these heartworms become adults, they will settle in the heart where they will remain for years and mate producing offspring. If left untreated, the heartworms can cause damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries and affect the animal's health and quality of life. There are usually not very many symptoms of heartworms in the beginning and heartworms can remain undetected for a long period of time. Symptoms will progressively show over time include coughing, decreased appetite, lethargy, weight loss, or intolerance of exercise or heat. As the worms mature and the infestation becomes greater the heart will no longer be able to pump blood properly and they can develop congestive heart failure. Fluid may appear in the belly giving your pet a "pot-bellied" appearance due to the heart failure. Prevention is by far the best way to keep your pet from getting heartworms!! Heartworms are diagnosed by a simple blood test that is ran in-clinic. We usually do this at the time of your pet’s annual wellness examine but may be needed in some cases in order for us to dispense heartworm prevention.
Cats are not a natural host for heartworms and usually will only have 1-3 adult worms present in their hears. However, since the cat is not a natural host, most immature heartworms don’t make it to the adult stage. These immature worms will die causing inflammation to the lung tissue which can create asthma-like symptoms. There are preventatives available for cats but there is not an effective or safe treatment at this time so prevention is the only way of protecting your cat. You can talk with one of our veterinarians to see if your cat should be on a prevention.