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Why we recommend checking for heartworm disease every year:
"What is truly frightening about heartworm disease? It can be silent but deadly".
All it takes is one bite from a disease-carrying mosquito for your dog to contract heartworm disease, a serious and potentially fatal disease. The mosquitoes transmit the disease by biting an infected dog and then passing the infection onto other dogs they bite. When a dog is bitten by a carrier mosquito, immature forms of heartworms called microfilaria get into the bloodstream and migrate to the heart. There they grow into adult heartworms and will cause a multitude of problems.
Respiratory issues are a common clinical symptom; some pets experience the occasional cough while others have breathing difficulties. Other signs can be reduced endurance or listlessness. Heartworm disease can also be responsible for other internal problems related to liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and even the nervous system. Adult heartworms can cause sudden death in pets, especially cats, that haven't shown any symptoms. Unfortunately, a great deal of damage can occur to your dog or cat before any outward signs are noted.
X-rays and diagnostic tests may be necessary to evaluate how severe the disease is if it is diagnosed in your pet. Treatment for a heartworm infected dog is a difficult task and quit expensive. Unfortunately, the injections can be painful and the patient could have a severe reaction to the worms death. On top of that, the drug used for dogs is difficult to obtain and there is no specific safe drug to kill adult heartworms in cats.
However, it is easy to prevent with a medication that kills the microfilaria before they develop into adults heartworms. It is given monthly and year round. Ask your veterinarian for information about a monthly medication! The job of this preventative is to kill any microfilaria that might have been deposited in the pets system over the past month prior to a mosquito bite. Dogs and cats may be safely started on this medication as early as 8 weeks of age. Dogs are tested yearly at their annual exam with a simple blood test (4Dx).
Even though dogs are the primary host for heartworms, studies show up to 20% of outdoor cats are infected.