Have you heard the term “heartworm” but don’t really know what it is? This post will help you learn the truth about this potentially deadly parasite.

What are the signs that my dog has heartworms?

Symptoms of heartworm in dogs depend on how many heartworms they are hosting, how active your dog is, and if there are pre-existing health issues. A mild to moderate case is usually accompanied by:

  • chronic cough
  • decline in appetite
  • exercise intolerance

In extreme cases, dogs can develop congestive heart failure, or even death.

Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms. This means that the heartworms can produce baby worms when living in the dog’s tissue and organs.

What are the signs that my cat has heartworms?

Signs of your cat having heartworm can vary greatly. Some cats show little to no signs, others show intense indicators. It partially depends on if the worms in your cat are immature or mature worms. Symptoms range from lethargy and breathing problems, to shock and death.

Cats are not natural hosts, so the heartworms cannot reproduce inside of the cat.

How can my pet be infected by heartworms?

Heartworms start with a mosquito.

When a mosquito bites an animal that is already infected with heartworm, the insect picks up baby worms. These baby worms live and grow inside the mosquito for up to two weeks before they mature into the infective larvae stage. Then, when the mosquito bites a different dog or cat, the infective larvae are deposited on the pet’s skin. The larvae then enter the new host through the bite wound to get to their bloodstream. There they travel to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, where they will mature into adult heartworms.

If you suspect any of your pets are infected, please contact us now.

How can I prevent heartworms ?

Traditional medication does not prevent the parasites from getting into your pet’s system. It only kills the immature larvae that are less than 30 days old. If the medicine is late (in some cases by as little as one day), the larvae can mature and ongoing treatments will not stop them from growing.

This can be a lot of pressure for a pet parent to get everything right.

Clients often let us know that remembering to give pets their heartworm medicine is a pain and causes unnecessary stress. This is why we recommend ProHeart 6 or ProHeart 12 for our adult dogs to prevent heartworm with an injection once or twice a year. And, we do a screening as part of our Annual Wellness Program , to ensure there are no worms already present in your pet that the preventatives won’t work on. This can help you and your pet rest easy for up to a full year.

We invite you to make an appointment for your yearly parasite prevention today.

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Animal Family Veterinary Care offers an extensive range of services all in one place, so we can meet your pet’s needs in almost every situation. Our veterinarians in Davenport treat dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and a variety of other exotic species, because every pet is unique and important.