Heartworms are bad news. They can kill dogs and cats, although dogs are more prone to getting them than cats. It is estimated that one in every 200 dogs gets infected with heartworms. The good news is that heartworms are preventable with medication from a veterinarian. Randolph Animal Hospital of Randolph, MA looks at the facts about heartworm prevention and treatment.
How Heartworms Kill Pets
Heartworms grow in and around the heart. They eventually grow so thick and numerous that they block the heart or blood vessels. Heartworms grow slowly, so by the time symptoms of heartworm disease appear, the parasites may already be quite large. Sometimes, juvenile heartworms become so numerous that they can block blood vessels.
First Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
The first signs of heartworms in dogs are usually a persistent cough and being more tired than usual. Since these are also the first signs of heart disease, it’s important to get your dog checked right away by your vet. The first signs of heartworms in cats are coughing, exhaustion, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
How Pets Get Heartworms
Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites. This makes pets in areas like Massachusetts prone to getting heartworms. Young heartworms are called microfilaria and lie in the blood near the skin surface of infected animals. Mosquitoes drink from the infected animal and suck up the microfilaria. The mosquito then bites another animal, releasing the microfilaria into a new host.
Heartworms are at their most vulnerable when they are microfilaria. Heartworm prevention medication that you get from your vet kills microfilaria, but not adult heartworms. Since microfilaria can survive in a pet’s bloodstream months after mosquito season ends, it is recommended to give heartworm medication year-round.
During your pet’s annual check-up, have your veterinarian do blood tests to check for heartworms even if your pet is taking medication as prescribed. Tests will check for the presence of adult heartworms.
Treating Adult Heartworms
Adult heartworms are difficult to treat. In cats, nothing can kill adult heartworms. Medication is given to help relieve symptoms. In dogs, the prognosis is a little better. There is medication to kill the adult worms that needs to be followed by a period of rest. Our veterinarian will assess your pet’s condition to determine whether or not it is suffering from heartworm infestation and provide treatment correspondingly.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Veterinarian for Heartworm Prevention in Randolph, MA
If you still have questions about heartworms that have not been answered here and live in the Randolph, MA area, contact Randolph Animal Hospital today. Call us at (781) 963-2298 for more information on heartworms or to schedule an appointment with our veterinarian.