When they bite, mosquitoes can transmit heartworm infection. Those heartworms can wreak havoc on your dog or cat. These parasites can severely and sometimes fatally damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some pets may not show any signs of parasite infestation; in those that do, symptoms can vary widely from gastrointestinal upset, poor haircoat, dry skin, pot bellied appearance to severe emaciation due to malnutrition.
It only takes a single bite from an infected mosquito to infect a dog or cat. It doesn’t matter if your dog stays inside most of the time; there are always mosquitoes that find their way into your house. Pets that travel to other climates especially areas that do not experience winter are at higher risk for heartworm disease and need to be on heartworm prevention year round.
In dogs, signs of heartworm disease can range from coughing, fatigue, and weight loss to difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation from heart failure). Canine heartworm infection can also lead to a life-threatening complication called “caval syndrome” (a form of liver failure); without prompt intervention, this condition usually causes death.
Although often thought to not be susceptible to heartworm infection, cats can indeed get heartworms. Cats can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD); the symptoms can be subtle and may mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, and panting, are common. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting (typically unrelated to eating), and loss of appetite or weight. Heartworm infection is more difficult to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs.
Treatment for heartworm infection is far more expensive than prevention and it can actually kill your dog. There is no approved treatment for cats. Some cats spontaneously rid themselves of the infection; others might not survive it. Even one or two adult heartworms in a cat can cause serious problems.
Fortunately, there’s a way to keep your dog or cat safe: by administering monthly heartworm preventives. Most heartworm medications also protect your pet against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, ear mites, fleas, and ticks. We can recommend a regimen of prevention that is appropriate for your pet.