April is Heartworm Awareness Month. We know, heartworms aren’t a very pleasant topic. However, they are extremely dangerous to our furry friends, and can even be deadly. A local Helotes, TX vet discusses heartworms in this article.
Heartworms are definitely aptly named. These worms are transmitted in as larvae, but rapidly grow to their adult size, which can be up to 12 inches. At this point, they take up residence in dogs’ hearts, lungs, and arteries, and begin multiplying. As you can imagine, this causes serious—and potentially fatal—health problems.
Heartworms aren’t transmitted through direct contact from dog to dog. Instead, everyone’s favorite insect, the mosquito, has volunteered to spread infestations via infected blood. As you know, mosquitos are pretty much everywhere. That means your pet can get infected at any time or any place … even in his own bed!
The first sign of an infestation is often coughing. You may also notice lethargy, shortness of breath, reduced interest in play, dizziness, and a reluctance to run or even walk. As infestations grow, they cause more serious problems, such as seizures, fainting, and/or heart attacks.
Heartworms can be treated. However, treatment can be quite expensive. It’s also pretty hard on dogs. Your pup may need to take some pretty harsh medications. He may also need to have his activity limited, so as not to strain his heart. This may require kenneling your pooch. In some cases, surgery may be needed.
Cats can also get heartworms, though their infestations are a bit different. Feline bodies aren’t very hospitable for the worms, so infestations don’t grow as large. They also sometimes resolve themselves, as the worms often die before reaching adult size. However, they can still be very dangerous. Even a single worm can cause permanent organ damage, and even death.
You may have heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That certainly applies here! All you have to do to protect your pet from these deadly worms is keep up with his parasite control. Just keep in mind that if your dog hasn’t been on heartworm prevention, he’ll need to be tested before starting. The medicine that prevents infestations won’t kill live worms.
Please contact us, your Helotes, TX vet clinic, for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs. We’re here to help!