Heartworms mainly affect canines rather than felines. These worms can lead to heart disease, lung failure and respiratory issues if prevention and treatment plan is not followed. Preventatives can be in the form of vaccines, tablets and liquids, and they must be administered routinely as recommended by a veterinarian.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are internal parasites, which are mainly found in the heart or gastrointestinal tract. Infected mosquitoes can transmit larvae to your dog once they bite them. The worms will then mature and reproduce while living inside your cat or dog. For canines, heartworms can survive for up to 7 years, causing irreparable damage to vital organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels. Your feline friend can also be infected for 2 to 3 years.
How can I tell if my dog or cat has heartworms?
Heartworm infection is extremely dangerous. When the symptoms become visible, that means your loyal companion has been infected for months. We recommend that our clients take preventive action before their cat or dog becomes infected. Here are some symptoms you may notice in dogs:
- Dark, coffee-coloured or bloody urine
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent dry cough
- Swollen abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Cats aren’t good hosts for heartworms; however, they can still become infected and experience asthma attacks, fainting, coughing and vomiting. To get your cherished companion tested or started on heartworm prevention, call 604-273-3158.
When is testing necessary?
Your pet should be tested every year before they begin prevention medication. Treating heartworms is a lengthy process, and preventatives alone won’t rid them of the infection. Depending on where you live or frequent with your loyal companion, we may recommend they get tested every season if there is a high infection rate.
How are heartworms detected?
Bloodwork is the main tool used to diagnose heartworms. Heartworms release protein once they infect a host, which can be detected in the patient’s blood. Other testing, such as a radiograph or echocardiogram (EKG), can indicate heartworms as well since those diagnostics can detect swelling of the pulmonary artery leading to the lungs and abnormal heart rhythms.