Meow! Bella the cat here! How is everyone doing? I think the warm weather is here to stay, which means the bugs are too. If there is any pest we can all agree to hate, it would be mosquitoes. Did you know mosquitoes not only transmit disease to people, but they can also transmit them between animals? We pets have to worry about heartworms. Never heard of them? I’ll get you up to speed.
Heartworm disease develops when a dog or cat is bitten by a mosquito carrying microscopic heartworm larvae of a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. As the mosquito feeds, these larvae are deposited on the pet and quickly penetrate the skin to begin their migration into the blood stream. Adult heartworms can grow 10 to 12 inches in length and make their home in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries.
Heartworm infection can happen anywhere there are mosquitoes and cases have been confirmed in all 50 states. Some animals may be infected and never show symptoms. As the heartworms develop into adults and eventually die, they can cause severe damage and inflammation to the pulmonary arteries. Eventually as blood flow becomes more restricted, animals can develop heart failure. If there is a large enough number of heartworms, they can also lead to sudden obstruction of blood flow through the heart and lungs. Few survive without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage. Heartworms in cats can also cause respiratory disease.
When dogs are infected with heartworms they can show signs like a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. These can be harder to spot in cats, which tend to be asymptomatic. We are incredibly stoic creatures, but if you notice us displaying signs of respiratory distress, please take us to the vet!
To diagnose heartworm disease, we do a blood test. We may also do x-rays to detect or to view the extent of the infection. Did you know treating heartworms is very expensive? From diagnosing and treating dogs it can cost as much as $1,200. Currently there is not an approved heartworm treatment for cats.
Don’t fret, there is good news! Prevention is cheap and recommended for all indoor and outdoor pets. After performing a heartworm test to be sure your pet is negative for heartworms, we can set you up with a preventative that fits your needs and lifestyle. There are currently topical and oral medications for cats and dogs. Some of these perform double, even triple duty as they may also take care of fleas and intestinal worms. All approved heartworm preventatives are highly effective, safe, and easy to use. Prevention is always more safe and affordable than treatment.
Did I freak you out talking about these scary worms? I hope so. Heartworm disease is no laughing matter. Please get your pets tested and on a preventative. We will thank you in kisses , purrs, and many happy years of companionship.