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Heartworm Disease (Dirofilaria immitus) Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can affect both dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are infected when they are bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae (microfilariae). Although heartworm disease is more prevalent in areas of the country with high mosquito populations, any dog or cat is at risk and should be protected. Approximately 6 months after the initial bite, a dog may begin showing clinical signs due to the presence of adult worms in the pulmonary vessels or the heart. Clinical signs in dogs include exercise intolerance, cough, bluish gums, and general fatigue. Heartworm disease is much less common in cats, but when it does occur in a cat it can be much more severe than in the dog. As little as two adult heartworms can be fatal in a cat, whereas a dog may have more than 25 worms! The most common sign in the cat is chronic coughing. Other signs in the cat are vomiting, labored breathing, or wheezing. Heartworm disease can be detected by your veterinarian with a variety of simple tests. The most common test for dogs is an antigen test, which detects the presence of female heartworms in the body. All dogs not on year-round preventative should be tested annually, and dogs who are on year-round preventative should be tested occasionally, as breakthroughs can occur. All dogs must be tested before starting a prevention regimen. Cats can be tested using an antibody test, and they are usually only tested when the appropriate clinical signs are present. Cats can also be placed on preventative. Year-round heartworm prevention for dogs and cats should begin at 6-8 weeks of age. There are currently a number of therapies available. Your veterinarian can help you select the best drug for your dog or cat. If heartworm disease is suspected, your veterinarian will generally perform a good physical exam and may want to take x-rays to determine the severity of the infection. Heartworms can be treated with drugs at your veterinarian's office. It is very important to restrict the exercise level of your dog for a few weeks following heartworm treatment, as dead worms can pile up in the pulmonary arteries and cause death if the dog becomes very excited. The best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention, so talk to your veterinarian today about which preventive regimen is right for you!! Visit our site


Heartworm Disease (Dirofilaria immitus)