Heartworm Disease is a serious, often fatal, disease of dogs and sometimes cats caused by a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Although outdoor animals are more frequently infected, mosquitoes often find a way into our homes and therefore can bite and infect "indoor only" cats and dogs as well.
Disease transmission occurs when a mosquito bites a dog or cat infected with the disease and ingests baby heartworms (microfilaria) that live in the bloodstream. The worms mature in the mosquito and when the mosquito bites the next dog or cat, some of the tiny worms are injected from the mosquito into the dog or cat.
The worms grow for three to four months in the tissues and eventually migrate to the heart and lungs where they develop into adult worms. Adult worms then start producing microfilarial young of their own, ready for the process to start again with the next mosquito bite.
Heartworm disease can cause many medical problems, some more serious than others. Some animals are symptom-free and the disease is only discovered on a blood test. Some animals collapse and die suddenly. Some cough and lose weight. Cats sometimes may cough or develop vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may not be seen until late in the disease when there has already been considerable damage done to the heart and lungs.
Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Heavy breathing
- Sudden death
Heartworm disease is easily prevented. Because of monthly oral preventive medication, heartworm is much less commonly diagnosed in pets than it used to be. Regular veterinary care with annual heartworm testing and properly administered heartworm preventives is the key to success.
Please call us at (978) 453-1784 to discuss which heartworm preventive would be best for your pet.