Understanding and Preventing Pet Heartworm Disease

To understand the dangers of heartworm disease, it’s important to understand what heartworms are and how they’re spread. Heartworms are parasitic roundworms that infect cats, dogs, and ferrets through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitos are active all year round in our mild climate, meaning pets are at risk of heartworm disease all year, too. That’s why it’s important to administer heartworm preventatives throughout every season, even winter.

Dog lying down: Pet Heartworm in Jonesboro

What Makes Heartworms So Dangerous?

Heartworms enter the bloodstream from the bite of an infected mosquito. They travel through your pet’s veins to reach the heart and blood vessels in the lungs. There, they grow, mature, and multiply, putting your pet at risk of lung disease, heart failure, and other organ diseases. Not only are the living heartworms a problem, but the dead can cause significant damage, too. Prevention is the best and safest option for your pet.

Ferret & Dog Heartworm Disease

Dogs and ferrets are natural hosts for heartworms. In a dog, heartworms can thrive and multiply with ease and if left untreated, cause serious damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels where they reside. In ferrets, due to their small size, even one to two worms is enough to cause serious problems. In the early stages of infection, dogs usually show no symptoms; however, as the worms grow, signs may appear.

Signs of dog heartworm disease include:

  • Mild, persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Signs of ferret heartworm disease include:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

A simple blood test is all we need to confirm a heartworm-positive dog or ferret. After that, we can develop a treatment plan to get your pet back in shape.

Treating Ferret & Dog Heartworm Disease

Luckily, dogs and ferrets with heartworm disease often see positive results from treatment. The treatment is complicated, expensive, and lengthy, but if followed correctly, the prognosis is generally good. Sometimes, surgery to physically remove the worms is possible, too.

Cat Heartworm Disease

Cats, although atypical hosts, are also at risk of the disease. While the worms do not thrive as well in a cat’s body, they can cause serious damage, mainly in the lungs. However, many cats will have no symptoms.

Additionally, while some cats will simply rid themselves of heartworms on their own, others may meet a sudden and untimely death. If a cat does have symptoms of heartworm disease, they often include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Asthma-like attacks
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss

These signs are very difficult to distinguish from other conditions such as feline asthma or bronchitis. Yet, with our diagnostic capabilities, we are able to run the appropriate blood tests to detect the heartworms.

Treating Cat Heartworm Disease

There is NO cure for a cat with heartworms. It is possible for your cat to dispel the heartworms on their own, but the damage the heartworms cause could be severe. While surgical removal is also an option, it is extremely risky. Prevention is the only way to fully protect your cat from this devastating disease.

Three cats: Pet Heartworm in Jonesboro

We Take Prevention Seriously

Heartworm disease prevention is the only way to fully protect your pet. Even one missed dose of preventative puts them at risk. Therefore we recommend a heartworm test for dogs every 6 months to ensure they haven’t contracted any heartworms, even if they are on strict preventatives. We also offer effective preventatives for cats which protect against other internal parasites including ear mites, roundworms, and more. Contact us today to learn more about our heartworm preventatives and the precautions we take to ensure your pet never suffers from this dangerous disease.

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Animal Medical Center – Jonesboro

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