They say that April showers bring May flowers, but there’s no cute little rhyme to remind us that May is also the start of the season in our region where pets are most at risk of getting heartworm disease due to heavy mosquito activity. Heartworm disease can be fatal to pets and is caused by worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals. Dogs are particularly susceptible, but cats, though it is less likely, can get them too.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, which inject infective larvae into your pet when they bite. Once there, the larvae migrate through tissues and organs, causing damage, before they attach in the heart, where they mature. Adult heartworms can live up to seven years in a dog and quickly begin reproducing. In cats, larvae will mature, but they will not reproduce. Cats will have fewer heartworms than dogs, but due to the large size of the adult worms (about a foot long) it only takes one or two to do serious damage. Even indoor cats are susceptible.
After an infection, treatment of heartworm disease can be costly and dangerous. That’s why it’s cheaper, safer and more practical to focus on prevention.
Signs of infection in dogs can include coughing, reluctance to exercise, fatigue, decrease in appetite, and weight loss. Signs of infection in cats include asthma-like attacks, vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, and sometimes fainting, trouble walking, or even sudden death. If heartworm disease goes unchecked, the worms will eventually cause congestive heart failure and death.
In warmer climates such as East Texas, our heartworm season is pretty much year-round but peaks during the months of May-October (coinciding with our mosquito season), and it’s recommended that pet owners test for heart worms at least one yearly, even if your pet is on prevention. Even the best preventative is only 99% effective. The earlier you catch the disease, the easier it is to treat.
Contact our team at Longview Animal Hospital with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment. We can recommend the proper heartworm disease prevention for both your dogs and your cats and discuss treatment if necessary. See you soon!