The bite of an infected mosquito transmits heartworms. When they bite, mosquitoes can infect our pets with heartworms. Those heartworms can wreak havoc on your dog’s or cat’s body. These parasites can severely and sometimes fatally damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some pets may not show any signs of infection; in those that do, symptoms can vary widely.
In dogs, signs of heartworm disease can range from coughing, fatigue, and weight loss to difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation from heart failure). Canine heartworm infection can also lead to a life-threatening complication called “caval syndrome” (liver failure). Without prompt surgical intervention, this condition usually causes death.
Although often thought not to be susceptible to heartworm infection, cats can get heartworms. Cats can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD); the symptoms can be subtle and may mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, and panting, are common. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting (typically unrelated to eating), and losing appetite or weight. Heartworm infection is more difficult to diagnose in cats than in dogs.
Treatment for heartworm infection is far more expensive than prevention. In addition, there is no approved treatment for cats. Some cats spontaneously rid themselves of the disease; others might not survive it. And even one or two adult heartworms in a cat can cause serious problems.
Fortunately, an easy way to keep your dog or cat safe is by administering monthly heartworm preventives. These medications protect your pet against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, ear mites, fleas, and ticks. Therefore, we can recommend a regular regimen of prevention for your pet.