Heartworm disease is serious—sometimes even fatal—and strikes both dogs and cats, although it is much more commonly seen in dogs.
Heartworms are indeed a type of worm or parasite, living in the blood of a dog or cat and infecting the heart and nearby blood vessels. The adult heartworms produce offspring, microfilariae, which circulate in the infected animal’s blood. When a mosquito bites an infected pet, it sucks out the infected blood. After about two weeks in the mosquito, the microfilariae become infective larvae. Then, the mosquito bites another pet and infects it with heartworms.
Canine heartworm disease prevention and treatment is effective and safe when the disease is diagnosed early. Some symptoms of advanced canine heartworm disease are listed below, but be aware: By the time these symptoms are evident, the animal is usually very ill! Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet exhibits any of the following:
If not detected early and treated properly, heartworm disease may lead to congestive heart failure and, almost certainly, death. A simple blood test will verify the presence of heartworms. Never give heartworm preventive medication without testing first. Severe or fatal reactions may occur if preventives are given to dogs already infected with heartworms.
Feline heartworm disease is less frequent in cats but is much more serious, often fatal. There are no drugs for fighting heartworms in cats, and using canine medication leads to dangerous side effects.
There are a few indicators of heartworm disease in cats: coughing, rapid breathing, weight loss, and vomiting. These tend to be signs of a wide range of diseases, so diagnosis is often difficult.
The best option is to use feline heartworm preventive for your cat. These drugs are given monthly and are effective in both cats and kittens.
Read more about heartworm disease in pets at the Healthy Pet website.
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