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Heartworm Awareness Month

April is Heartworm Awareness Month! While heartworms aren’t the funnest thing to talk about, it is important for pet owners to understand what they are, and why they are so dangerous. An Ellicott City, MD vet discusses heartworms below.

Basics

Heartworms are, as one might expect, parasites that infest dogs’ hearts, as well as their lungs and blood vessels. These disgusting worms have enlisted another unpopular parasite—the mosquito—to transmit their larva from infected dogs to other pooches. Fido can be infested anywhere mosquitos are present, which, as you know, is pretty much everywhere. While infestations are painless and asymptomatic at first, as the worms grow, they will begin to interfere with your pup’s vital organs. Left untreated, infestations can be fatal.

Prevention

The best way to keep your canine pal healthy is to keep up with his parasite control products. Your vet can provide oral or topical medications that will protect Fido from heartworm infestations. Ask your vet for more information.

Symptoms

Coughing is one of the earliest signs of heartworm infestations. Fido may also lose his appetite, and could start losing weight. As the worms grow, you may notice that your pet seems fatigued, and loses his breath easily. More severe symptoms include fainting, weakness, and heart attacks.

Diagnosis

Heartworms are in larval stage when they are first transmitted, so they cannot be detected immediately. Usually, they won’t show up in blood tests until about 5 months after a dog has contracted them. Your vet will need to run tests before administering initial heartworm medication. This is important because the medication that prevents heartworm don’t kill live infestations.

Treatment

Heartworms are treatable, but treatment can be expensive, and is pretty tough on Fido. Your pet may need to be kenneled during treatment, and will need to visit the vet several times. In severe cases, surgery may be required. Of course, the exact type of treatment needed will depend on the severity of the infestation. Ask your vet for more information.

Cats

While dogs are much more commonly infected, kitties can also contract heartworms. Since cats aren’t the perfect host for heartworms, it’s rare for them to have adult worms in their systems. However, the infestations can still damage Fluffy’s vital organs and interfere with her respiration.

Do you have questions about your pet’s heartworm medication? Please contact us, your Ellicott City, MD pet hospital.

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