Apr 01 2019

Heartworms 101

Heartworm prevention wrapped in cheese? Yay!

What are heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially deadly disease caused by foot long worms found in the heart and lungs of affected pets.

Who can get heartworms?

Heartworms can be found in domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets as well as wild animals such as coyotes, sea lions and foxes. Dogs are the natural host for heartworms, that means the heartworms live, grow, mate and produce offspring inside the dog. Cats however, are atypical hosts. Heartworm disease in cats can go undetected even while a single worm is causing life threatening damage.

How are heartworms transmitted from animal to animal?

Mosquitoes pick up microscopic baby worms (microfilaria) that circulate in the bloodstream of affected animals.These baby worms mature into “infective stage” larvae over 10 to 14 days. When the mosquito takes a blood meal from another pet, the larvae are deposited onto the skin of the animal and enter the blood stream through the mosquito bite wound.

How long can heartworms live inside a host?

Mature heartworms can live 5 to 7 years in dogs and 2 to 3 years in cats, with each infected mosquito bite adding to the current worm burden.

How can I prevent my cat or dog from getting heartworms?

Prevention, prevention, prevention! Heartworms have been diagnosed in pets in ALL 50 STATES! Heartworm preventions for dogs, cats and ferrets is available in prescription monthly topical medications. Dogs also have oral and injectable prescription medications available. Click here to refill your pet’s heartworm prevention.

What are the signs of heartworm disease?

Signs of heartworm disease range from subtle to dramatic. Most common symptoms are coughing, occasional vomiting, exercise intolerance, lack of appetite, weight loss and occasionally in cats you may see feinting, trouble walking or seizures. Unfortunately, the first sign in cats may be sudden collapse or death.

How do I find out if my pet has heartworms?

Heartworms can be detected by our in-house laboratory with a small blood sample. This test looks for heartworm proteins in the blood. We recommend testing dogs every 6 months, and cats at least every year. If a cat shows any symptoms of heartworms, x-rays and ultrasound may also be recommended. Schedule your pet’s heartworm test by clicking here.

My pet takes heartworm prevention, do I still need to test?

Absolutely. We want to make sure that your prevention routine is working! Prevention given even just days late can leave enough of a window for the mosquitoes to infect your pet.

I have more questions!

Request an appointment or shoot us an email at [email protected]

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