Heartworms are transmitted to cats and dogs by infected mosquitoes. This type of parasite can cause fatality if not treated. The worms usually live inside the gastrointestinal tract, however, they are notorious for living inside the heart. As the worms mature, they will multiply and can grow up to 12 inches. It is much easier to prevent heartworms than to treat the disease. To find out how you can give your pet protection from this parasite, please call us at 613-732-3641.
When should my pet be tested for heartworms?
Regular testing is necessary especially for dogs as they are more susceptible to the disease. Cats should be tested before they begin preventative medication and whenever your veterinarian deems it necessary. Here’s a general timeline for when dogs should be tested:
- Puppies under 7 months can start prevention medication without being tested but must be tested every 6 months.
- Adult dogs at 7 months old who have not previously taken a preventative should be tested before starting prevention medication. They should be tested every 6 to 12 months after.
Even if your dog is on prevention medication they should be tested yearly. The preventive is highly effective, however, if a dose is missed your loyal companion is vulnerable to catching the disease.
What are signs of heartworms?
In the early stages, there are few symptoms which can easily go unnoticed. By the time the symptoms become more apparent your loyal companion may have been infected for months. Signs of heartworms in felines include asthma-like attacks, seizures, weight loss, loss of appetite and vomiting. Canines will have the following symptoms:
- Decreased appetite
- Reluctance to do any physical activity
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent coughing
- Pale gums
- Coffee-coloured or dark, bloody urine
How does heartworm prevention work?
Preventatives are usually given on a monthly basis. It can be a topical cream, injection or tablet. The medication eliminates immature heartworm eggs before they mature and produce offspring. It is imperative that heartworm medication be administered as prescribed by the veterinarian. All pet parents should consider heartworm prevention as treatment can be difficult. If your feline develops the disease there is no treatment and they will have to pass the worms naturally. For dogs, it is a lengthy process including a series of injections and complete rest for at least 30 days.