Heartworms Are A Growing Concern

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Heartworms Are A Growing Concern

by Bonnie Holscher


Heartworms have been around for more than 100 years in dogs and about 85 or more years in cats. Although diagnostic methods have improved, cases of this infection continue to appear in dogs and cats around the world. Relatively few actually have heard of the disease or are taking preventative measures to protect their dog or cat. The detection of the disease is more difficult in cats than in dogs. Heartworm disease is a serious and sometimes fatal condition. In cats the Heartworm can cause sudden death.

Heartworms are passed to animals by mosquitos. The worm is approximately the size around as spaghetti and can grow for 5 to 14 inches in their adulthood. They live in the arteries of the lungs and the right side of the heart of the host animal. When a mosquito bites an infected animal the tiny young worms incubate for a period of 10 to 14 days. When the mosquito then bites another animal the mature larvae then enters the new animal. It takes about 6 to 8 months for the larvae to grow to maturity in the host animal. These worms can have a lifespan from 5 to 7 years in a dog. That lifespan tends to be shorter in a cat.

All dogs are susceptible to Heartworm disease and this disease has been found in all 50 states. The major infestation is along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and the Mississippi River. Some of these areas have diagnosed infections in dogs as young as a year old.

Cats are a little more resistant to Heartworms than dogs. The lifespan for the Heartworm is 2 to 3 years in a cat and the worms can be considerably smaller. It also takes longer for the worms to mature in a cat than a dog. It seems that some cats can rid themselves of the infection with a somewhat strong immune system.

The common symptoms of the Heartworm in either dogs or cats are a cough, some vomiting, and difficulty breathing. At this time there are no approved products for treatment of feline heartworm. However the treatment for the infestation in a dog can be quite successful. There is one drug currently approved for treatment of canine heartworm which is an organic arsenical compound. The dog is usually hospitalized and the overall health of the dog determines the success of the treatment. Prevention is obviously the way to insure the health of you cat or dog. An examination and some testing can pave the way to one of a few methods of medicating. Daily or monthly tablets or monthly topical drugs prove to be effective in the prevention of this disease in both dogs and cats. If you have not already done so, it would be wise to make an appointment with your Veterinarian for a Heartworm screening soon and get start on the prevention to insure the health of your pet.



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