Heartworm disease is one of the most severe and commonly witnessed in pets in the United States. The root cause of this disease is a foot-long worm (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and connected vessels of an infected pet. The usually leads to pets suffering from severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage in other organs in the body.
The main impact of heartworm disease is seen in dogs, cats, and ferrets. There is also a possibility that humans might get impacted by the disease.
How does this Heartworm disease gets transmitted from one pet to another?
The main disease carrier is mosquitoes, as they are quick in picking up infections and transmitting it. Adult female heartworms that are living in an infected pet/ animal produce baby worms called microfilaria. This microfilaria will get transmitted in the bloodstream of the animal and leads to severe health troubles.
What mosquito does?
A mosquito simply acts as a medium of disease transmission from one pet to another. When it bites the infected animal, it carries some baby worms from the bloodstream. These baby worms develop and mature into the “infected stage”. This takes approximately 0-14 days at an early stage, but once transmitted to another pet via mosquito bite, it can take up to 6 months to mature completely.
How long can it live in new hosts body?
Once they are fully grown, they can live up to 5-7 years in dogs and up to 2-3 years in cats.
What are the signs of the Heartworm in Cats?
You need to be really careful and observant in matters of healthcare of your pets. If you are specifically looking for heartworm disease, you need to pay extra attention as the signs are very subtle. Common symptoms observed are:
- Periodic vomiting,
- Lack of appetite, and/or weight loss.
- Asthma-like attacks
Apart from medical conditions, you should also keep a check if their posture and daily routine is impacted.
They might appear to walk differently, experience fainting or seizures or suffer from fluid accumulation. The very first sign in some case is the collapse of the cat or even sudden death.
What are the signs of Heartworm Disease in Dogs?
As we mentioned earlier, these symptoms are very difficult to detect and you might not even be able to detect before it’s late. The longer the infection persists; the symptoms start showing their impact and may worsen suddenly.
However, some of the signs of heartworm disease are listed below:-
- Mild persistent cough,
- Reluctance to exercise,
- Fatigue after moderate activity,
- Decreased appetite, and
- Weight loss.
Some common signs of disease progression are that they develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to the excess fluid. More importantly, dogs with a large number of heartworms may also develop sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart. This would even create a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.
Key facts about Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats
- Carried by mosquitoes.
- It can be fatal.
- It can be difficult to treat but are easy to prevent.
When should a pet be tested for Heartworms?
The major issue that pet owners’ usually face is that they have no idea when to get their pets tested for heartworms. Some of the common cases when you should consider getting a checkup are listed below:
- If dog/cat is not given any heartworm prevention for long;
- When you are switching the medications;
- If the dog or cat has recently traveled to a new area where heartworm diseases are common.