Heartworm disease is a life-threatening illness that affects pets such as dogs, cats, and ferrets. Heartworms are parasitic worms that grow from 4 to 12 inches in length and live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of infected pets. If left untreated, heartworms will cause serious damage to major organs which can prove fatal.
Spread by mosquitoes that have bitten infected animals, heartworm disease is a hidden condition that shows few or no outward signs until it is well established. Adult female heartworms produce microscopic microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites, it picks up the baby worms that develop into infective larvae, deposits the larvae onto the next bite victim’s skin, and the larvae then enters into the new host’s bloodstream through the mosquito bite wound. Over the next several months, the larvae develop into adult heartworms.
It is important to test for heartworms every year to ensure that no heartworms are present in your pet. It is a simple test that is much more cost effective than having to treat established heartworm disease. Equally important is the need to protect consistently against heartworm infection with a preventative treatment program. Heartworms are present in all 50 states, and mosquitoes do get inside people’s houses; both indoor and outdoor pets are potentially at risk.
At McPherson Veterinary Services, we recommend scheduling an annual test to ensure your pet is heartworm free. If your dog’s test results come back negative, then we will start him or her on a preventive treatment that you will need to administer year-round for the rest of the animal’s life. These preventive medications come in several forms, including topical applications, injectables, pills, and tasty treats.
If your dog tests positive, there is a treatment for it, however it is a lengthy and costly one. Your pet will need to be kept calm for 30 days in order to avoid putting stress on the heart and lungs.
Cats should be put on a preventive treatment and tested as recommended by our veterinarian. Cats are not a natural host for heartworms however, just a few can make a cat very ill. Prevention in cats is critical because there is no approved drug treatment for heartworm infection in cats. If your cat tests positive for heartworms, he or she can be helped with good veterinary care and a long-term management plan.
Schedule an appointment today for your pet’s heartworm test. Our service area includes Murfreesboro and the surrounding areas of Tennessee.