Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats
Heartworm disease is caused by a blood parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, a microscopic worm that gets into the bloodstream of your pet, and then migrates to the heart and vessels of the lungs. Dirofilaria is transmitted when a mosquito bites a dog or cat infected with the organism and then proceeds to bite (and thus infect) another dog or cat. This parasite causes a host of issues for the affected patient, including disruptions in blood flow through the heart, inflammation of the vessels and tissues of the lungs, allergic reactions to the presence and/or death of the worms, and in severe cases, death to the patient. While many patients display no clinical signs until the disease is advanced, the most common symptoms observed in patients affected by heartworm disease are coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, and weight loss. Damage done to the affected tissues is often permanent, and even if treatment of heartworm disease is successful, can continue to impact a patient’s quality of life. While there is an approved treatment for heartworm disease in DOGS (there is no treatment in cats), treatment is physically stressful for the patient and carries a substantial expense for the owner.
The good news is that heartworm disease is entirely preventable! Prevention is achieved by monthly administration of a medication called a macrocylic lactone. These medications kill developing heartworms before they advance to the adult stage and migrate to the heart, thus preventing the progression of disease. These medications are contained in many products you may have heard of- Interceptor Plus, Heartgard, Trifexis, and Revolution, to name a few. When given regularly on a monthly basis, these medications are extremely effective in preventing heartworm disease (while still being very safe and benign for your pet!). All dogs and cats are at risk of exposure to heartworm, and for this
All dogs and cats are at risk of exposure to heartworm, and for this reason, knowledge and prevention of this deadly disease are key in keeping your pet healthy and happy! To learn even more about heartworm disease, feel free to explore the American Heartworm Society’s “Heartworm Basics” website at the following address, or give us a call at 703-820-2557 to schedule a visit for your furry friend!: