April is Heartworm Awareness Month. We know, heartworms aren’t the most enjoyable topic to read about. However, heartworms are extremely dangerous to your beloved pet! A local Norwalk, CA veterinarian goes over some of the things all pet owners need to know about heartworms below.
Heartworms are, if nothing else, aptly named. They take up residence in the hearts, lungs, and arteries of canids, including dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes. In case you were wondering, our feline pals can also be affected. As the worm infestation—officially known as worm load—increases, the worms will interfere with Fido’s vital organs. Needless to say, this can be very dangerous.
One of the reasons heartworms are so dangerous is because they can spread so easily. They aren’t spread through direct contact from dog to dog, but instead have roped mosquitos into transmitting infected blood from one pup to another. That means your furry pal can contract heartworms anywhere there are mosquitos … even if he hasn’t been around other dogs. In fact, there are over 30 types of mosquitoes that can spread heartworms.
In most cases, the first sign of heartworm infestation—aside from a positive test result, of course—would be coughing. Fido will slowly start to lose energy, and may become reluctant to run or play vigorously. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, weakness, weight loss, reduced appetite, and bulging ribs. Call your vet immediately if you notice any of these. Over time, the worms will cause more serious effects, such as collapse, fainting, coma, and, sadly, death.
While there are treatments available for heartworm, it’s much better—not to mention cheaper—to try and prevent infestations in the first place. The treatments can involve pretty harsh medications. Fido will also need his activity limited, which may in some cases mean keeping him kenneled. He may even need surgery.
As you can see, keeping up with your canine buddy’s parasite prevention is absolutely crucial. There are different products to choose from, ranging from pills to shots, so ask your vet for recommendations. However, if Fido’s preventative care has lapsed, you’ll need to get him tested for heartworms before starting up again. This is because the products that prevent infestations don’t kill live worms.
Please contact us, your Norwalk, CA animal clinic, with any questions or concerns about your pet’s health or care. We’re here to help!