Heartworm Facts and PreventionOwning a pet is a fun and enjoyable experience but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. In addition to making sure he or she is well-fed, clean, and warm, it is also important to make sure that your pet is in good health and on the proper preventative medication to keep him or her safe from any potentially dangerous parasites and worms.

What are heartworms?

Heartworms are foot-long worms that inhabit the heart, lungs, and blood associated with each. Heartworm disease can be potentially fatal when left untreated and can present itself in various forms depending on the severity and extent of its development. While both cats and dogs can have heartworms, heartworm disease in cats is much different than that of dogs.

Cats

Heartworm disease in cats often goes undiagnosed as cats are not the typical host for heartworms. Most heartworms don’t survive to reach the adult stage within cats, but even young worms can cause permanent damage. It is important to keep your feline friends on heartworm preventatives as medication made to treat heartworms are not often designed for cats, making preventative care the best treatment. Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats include:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • “Asthma-like” attacks

If your cat experiences fainting, seizures, or difficulty walking, visit your nearest animal emergency room as soon as possible.

Dogs

Unlike cats, dogs are the natural host for heartworms. Heartworm disease is much more prevalent in dogs for this reason, as the worms can thrive into adulthood and reproduce. Just like in cats, even the youngest worm can cause extensive damage, so it is important to catch heartworm disease as early as possible for the best results. Preventative treatment is the best option, but medication for diagnosed heartworm disease is most effective when used in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent coughing
  • Weight loss

Dogs who are in the early stages of heartworm disease may not display symptoms, so it is important to regularly have your pet tested for heartworm disease.

Keeping your pet on a heartworm preventative is the best way to help protect your pet from the dangers of heartworm disease. Heartworm disease can be fatal if left untreated, so talk to your veterinarian about including heartworm testing in your annual wellness exams. For more information about how you can better protect your pet from heartworm disease, contact Pleasant Plains Animal Hospital today.

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