Heartworms are a type of parasite that lives within the host's heart, as well as in some blood vessels and the lungs. Dogs are most commonly associated with heartworms, as this parasite can thrive in the dog's systems. However, other mammals can also end up with heartworms in their systems, such as cats and ferrets. Heartworm identification, treatment, and prevention are essential to stopping this parasite from having a serious, and sometimes fatal impact on your pet. At Cascade Veterinary Center, PS, in Marysville, MA, we want to help you stop heartworm from hurting your pet.
What is a Heartworm
The physical appearance of a heartworm is approximately 12 inches long and looks like a pale white tube. Their larvae are spread by mosquitos and then grow and reproduce in dogs. They are not able to reproduce in hosts that are not as welcoming, so cats, ferrets, and other mammals have lower quantities of heartworms if they are present. In addition to being the ideal host for heartworms, dogs are at a much higher risk of transmission because they spend a lot more time outside than other companion animals. Heartworms have a lifespan that can last as long as 7 years in dogs and 3 years in cats.
What Problems Do Heartworms Cause
As the name indicates, the biggest issues occur in the heart itself. The lungs and arteries are two other systems impacted by a heartworm infection. Dogs may show several symptoms, such as fatigue, cough, swollen stomach, difficulty breathing, dark urine, and sudden weakness. Cats may cough, have swollen bellies, become unable to walk, or not want to eat. Heartworm infection can lead to heart failure, fluid accumulation in the stomach, and other serious conditions.
How to Prevent or Treat Heartworm
The best plan of attack with heartworm is to stop your pet from getting it in the first place. Heartworm preventative can be given monthly, and this type of medication often protects against other common pests like fleas and ticks. You can reduce the number of mosquitos around your home by getting rid of any puddles or ponds of standing water, putting mosquito repellent in place, ensuring that your window screens are undamaged, and using mosquito-killing equipment.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Veterinariain in Marysville, MA
If you suspect that your pet has heartworms, the first step of treatment is a proper diagnosis by a trained veterinarian. It's possible that your pet may need to go through surgery to have large numbers of heartworms removed. If you're worried about your pet or you need to make an appointment to get your pet preventative care, call Cascade Veterinary Center, PS, today at (360) 659-2323 for more information or to schedule an appointment with our veterinariain.