Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Worms in the heart? Yes, that's Heartworm Disease.

It sounds terrible to have live worms residing in your heart doesn't it?  If you think it sounds terrible how do you think it feels?  I guess you wouldn't know unless you were one of the many dogs, cats or ferrets diagnosed with heartworm disease each year.

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.  The worms are spread from pet to pet through the bite of a mosquito. The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.

The disease is very common and has been reported in all 50 states.

For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of worms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites.

Heartworm infection in apparently healthy animals is usually detected with a simple blood test.  A small amount of blood is all that is needed for a heartworm test. This test should be done once a year by your family veterinarian to diagnose the infection early.

Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive.

There are a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection in both dogs and cats, including 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. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.

While treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is possible, it is a complicated and expensive process, taking weeks for infected animals to recover. There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so it is imperative that disease prevention measures be taken for cats.

This is a picture of heartworms in the heart of a dog.   Please ask your veterinarian how you can prevent heartworm disease in your pet and keep them on that preventative year round.  It is so important!  Call us at Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital for more information, or to get  heartworm preventative for your pet.  586-751-3350