Heartworm Disease: What You Need to Know
Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats, and other animal species and is very prevalent in our area of the country. The heartworm parasite is carried from pet to pet via mosquito bites, then makes its home in the major blood vessels of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Eventually, it can weaken and destroy these vital organs.
Most pets don’t show symptoms of heartworm disease until it is quite advanced, and while treatment is available for dogs, it can be costly and hard on your pet. Thankfully, heartworm disease is easily prevented with a variety of effective heartworm preventive medications.
Once an infection is advanced, dogs usually begin to exhibit symptoms such as coughing, lack of appetite and consequent weight loss, and overall lethargy. Cats tend to develop symptoms later than dogs, as heartworm larvae take an additional month longer to grow into adults, and attack the respiratory organs as opposed to the heart. A cat will vomit, lose its appetite and weight, have fainting spells, and suffer seizures.
As these symptoms might be indicative of certain other conditions, a series of tests are done to confirm a heartworm diagnosis. We will order a blood sample, and place it under the microscope to determine the larval stage. Our vet will back up the findings with urinalysis, X-rays, ultrasound and a blood cell count.
Heartworm treatment is dependent on the severity of the infection. If detected early, it will be far easier to treat, cost less, and have a higher chance of a better outcome. Late treatment may result in complications and possible death from irreversible damage done to affected organs.
Prevention is the Best Treatment!
Year-round preventive heartworm medication is a must in our state. We carry a variety of products and our veterinarians can help you choose the one that is right for your pet and your budget. Call us at (863) 665-5033 to schedule an appointment or visit Santa Fe Animal Hospital today for Lakeland’s most comprehensive heartworm prevention and treatment.