Many dog owners know that their dog needs a blood test for heartworm every year, and is supposed to take a monthly pill or monthly topical for prevention. Often, cat owners don’t realize that this is also an important disease in cats. But how much do you know about heartworm itself?
The vets at Gagemount Animal Hospital are more than happy to educate you about heartworm disease. It all starts with mosquitoes. A mosquito will feed off an animal infected with heartworm (often times a dog, wolf, or fox), and heartworm larvae are contained in their meal. The larvae are then passed on to another animal when the mosquito bites another victim. Once inside the host, the larvae will mature and migrate through the body until they reach the large artery between the heart and lungs. The worms can cause massive inflammation and damage to the artery, heart, and lungs. Treatment of dogs after infection with heartworm includes an arsenic-derivative injection, along with several other mediations. Treatment is expensive, takes 2-3 months on average, and can cause serious side effects. In cats, we cannot use the same treatment because it can be too harmful to our patient. We must rely on anti-inflammatories and other supportive care. Heartworm disease can be fatal!
The best care practice to prevent heartworm is to book a preventative with one of our vets every month for cats and dogs, and a blood test every year for dogs to ensure that no break-through infections have occurred. When cats are infected, they usually only develop 1 or 2 adult worms, which will not show up on our normal screening test. We do have specialized tests for feline heartworm in sick kitties, but do not do annual testing in healthy ones.
We can do so much by a pill or topical preventative every month and once-yearly testing for dogs. We also recommend at the same time as we are drawing a blood sample for the heartworm test that we draw a little extra to run a wellness panel to find subclinical disease before it becomes clinical.
Our heartworm test now includes testing at no additional charge for Lyme disease and 2 other tick borne diseases as well.
Please help us protect your pets!!