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What is Heartworm Disease?

What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm Disease is a potentially deadly disease caused by worms (Dirofilaria Immitis) that live in the right side of the heart and arteries and lungs. Dogs and cats of any age may be susceptible to infection. A heartworm infection can cause damage to the above organs, eventually leading to heart failure, and in more severe cases, may cause damage to other vital organs such as the live and kidneys.

How are Heartworms Transmitted?
The disease is not spread directly from animal to animal. An intermediate host, the mosquito, is required for transmission. A mosquito becomes infected with baby heartworms, called microfilariae, while taking a blood meal from an infected dog. Within the mosquito the babies grow to “adolescent” heartworms, this process takes approximately 1 month. The mosquito now bites another dog, infecting them with the adolescent worms which are now ready to grow to adult stage within the dog or cat, this process takes about 6 months. At the adult stage, the male and female worms will produce thousands of babies.

How do Heartworms affect my pet?
Adult heartworms cause disease by clogging the heart and large vessels, thus reducing the blood supply to other major organs, like the lungs, liver and kidneys.
Baby heartworms circulate throughout the body remaining primarily in the small vessels. The babies may block these small vessels, thus restricting blood flow to body cells and organs. Once again, the liver and lungs are primarily affected.

What are the symptoms of Heartworm disease?
There are no symptoms of disease until the disease is advanced. This could take months to years. Some symptoms will include coughing, difficulty breathing

How is Heartworm Disease diagnosed?
A simple blood test can be run at a veterinary hospital. After a positive test result, further testing is necessary to determine the severity of the disease and to determine if the pet is healthy enough to undergo treatment.

How is Heartworm disease treated?
An injectable drug is used to kill the adult worms. An injection is given 1 time daily for 2 days. Hospitalization is necessary during the 2 days of treatment. After the treatment is complete rest is essential for at least 30 days. A monthly heartworm preventative is used to kill the baby heartworms and prevent further infection.

How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm Disease?
Prevention is key. A monthly preventative can be given to help prevent this disease. There are different forms of preventative to suit every life style and budget. We recommend year round prevention because of our warm, humid climate. Annual testing is important because no medication is perfect and none of us have perfect memories.

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