Heartworm is a parasite carried by mosquitoes that can potentially become fatal for your pets. The disease is spread when a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites a non-infected animal. This deposits worm larvae into the new host’s bloodstream. These larvae become large worms over time. They are most commonly found in the vessels of the heart and lungs and can cause blockages.
If you suspect your pet has heartworm, you should have them tested before permanent damage is done. Although heartworm isn’t common in this area (as it is too cold for mosquitoes), you should always use preventative medications as a precaution. Locations to keep in mind when travelling include southern British Columbia, south-eastern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and farther, all of the USA.
If a dog has heartworms, what symptoms should I look for?
Some common symptoms of heartworm are a mild persistent cough, decreased appetite, weight loss, reluctance to exercise and lethargy. Eventually, they may have a distended abdomen due to excess fluid in the abdomen and heart failure.
How does a dog get heartworms?
Dogs get heartworm from mosquitoes that bite an infected animal and then transfer the worm larvae to the non-infected animal. Cats can also get heartworm, but it is quite rare. The amount of cats that become infected is directly related to how many infected dogs are in the area.
What are the treatment options for heartworms?
Treatment is available, but it can be quite a long, complex and sometimes dangerous procedure. We always recommend prevention as the number one defence against heartworm. Treatment options are decided on a case-by-case basis and depend on the severity of the infestation. Restricted activity and rest are essential for recovery in all cases.
Why is recovery for heartworm treatment so challenging?
Treatment and recovery can be tricky. The adult worms in the heart and lung vessels will be killed by treatment but can still cause blockages within these structures. These blockages can be fatal for your pet. Sometimes, the damage can be permanent even when the parasites are gone. If you are worried that your pet has heartworm, we recommend bringing them into the clinic to have them tested for the parasite.