Heartworm is a serious condition that most often strikes dogs, but that can be present in cats as well. Fortunately, preventive treatments are quite effective as long as they are administered regularly. Regular heartworm testing allows us to provide proper treatment and catch the condition early on, even when your pet doesn't have any noticeable symptoms.
What is heartworm disease?
A heartworm infection happens when one or more adult heartworms lives inside your pet. Infections are far more common in dogs, although it can impact cats and ferrets as well. The adult heartworms can grow to be about a foot long, living in your pet's heart, lungs, and blood vessels. If left untreated, these worms will damage the structures they inhabit over time, eventually leading to serious illness and possibly death.
How is heartworm disease transmitted?
Heartworm is most commonly transferred from one animal to another by mosquitos. This happens because the adult heartworms in an infected animal will produce baby worms that are released into the bloodstream. When wild carriers like wolves, foxes, and coyotes are bitten by a mosquito, some of those microfilariae are transferred to the mosquito, who then deposits them when it bites another animal. Some symptoms your pet could exhibit about contracting the disease include persistent cough, fatigue, weight loss, decreased appetite, and an unwillingness to exercise. In the later stages, blockages caused by the heartworms can lead to fluid retention causing a swollen abdomen and heart failure.
How do you test for heartworms?
Although it is more common in some areas than others, heartworm can affect pets at any time. It's crucial to have your pets tested regularly and administer heartworm preventive treatments year round. This testing can be done as part of your pet's annual checkup. Our veterinary team can also recommend preventive medication. It usually comes in 12 doses, with one given each month. Even if your dog is taking preventive medication, annual heartworm testing is still necessary because a missed dosage can leave your pet susceptible to infection. If you're interested in getting your pet tested for heartworms, please contact us at 416-245-8805.