What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs and cats in a number of countries. Dogs tend to be primary hosts, however, cats that are travelling to high-risk areas have the potential of infestation as well. The parasites, known as heartworms, make their way into the lungs and heart to cause serious health problems. In dogs that are heavily infested the disease is often fatal.
How is Heartworm Disease Transmitted?
Mosquitoes that inject larvae into the bloodstream transmit heartworm. The larvae eventually make their way to the heart where they can grow to be up to 12 inches long. These growing heartworms produce new larvae that are picked up by mosquito bites and transmitted to new victims.
How to Test for Heartworm Disease:
To test for heartworm, a simple blood test is taken to look for any potential larvae circulating in the blood stream. If the test is positive, additional tests should be done to determine the status and severity of the heartworm disease before administering treatment to the animal.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease:
Symptoms are directly related to the number of worms living in the heart. Dogs with very few worms can carry them for years without showing any symptoms. However, dogs with many worms generally develop serious heart, lung, liver, and kidney problems.
Prevention from Heartworm Disease:
Vet clinics have various medications to prevent Heartworm disease. At the Hurontario Veterinary Hospital, we recommend using Heartgard to prevent heartworm disease. Heartgard is a chewable tablet that is given monthly. It contains ivermectin, which is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic medication.
Heartworm in Canada:
Heartworm is more prevalent in warmer regions, where the temperature in the summer is high enough for worm larvae to survive inside mosquitoes. High-risk areas in Canada include southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and the Okanagan in British Columbia.
Vet Clinics information above was written with the help of the Alberta Veterinary Medical; Association (ABVMA): www.abvma.ca