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Why Heartworm Protection Is Important

Every summer, the media buzz with tales about diseases in humans spread by pesky insects. Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance to people, though. It could be a serious health risk to your pets as well.


What You Need to Know About the Disease


Heartworm disease is a severe and potentially deadly condition in pets. It is caused by foot-long, blood-borne parasitic worms that live in the host’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Heartworms are transmitted from one host to another through mosquito bites. The infection can cause heart failure, severe lung disease, and organ damage.


  • Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs. In its early stages, many dogs show few symptoms or none at all. The longer the heartworm infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Signs commonly include persistent coughing, weakness, and lethargy. Other indicators are lack of appetite and weight loss. If a dog has large numbers of heartworms, it may suffer from a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse known as caval syndrome. This is marked by the sudden onset of breathing distress, anemia, blood in the urine, and heart failure. Without immediate surgery to remove heartworm blockage, the dog may not survive.


  • Heartworm Symptoms in Cats. Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be too subtle or remarkably dramatic. In fact, not all cats suffering from this infection demonstrate any symptoms at all. Some cats infected with heartworms die suddenly without ever displaying any signs of being sick. Respiratory signs are the most obvious in infected cats. Additionally, cats suffering from heartworms may have symptoms that mimic many other diseases. These nonspecific symptoms include periodic vomiting, reduced activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.


Heartworms typically live in dogs and sometimes cats. But it can also thrive in other mammals, such as ferrets, wolves, and in some rare cases, humans.


Why Prevention Is Key


There are many products approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent heartworms in dogs and cats. All these need a prescription from the veterinarian. Your pet should be tested for heartworm disease every year. This is crucial even when it’s on monthly heartworm preventives. This way, you can ensure that the prevention program is effective.


As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It sounds cliché, but heartworm preventatives are safe, affordable, and easy to administer. But if your pet becomes infected, treatment can be challenging and costly. This is because it requires many visits to the vet and months of commitment to exercise restriction. Prevention is so much better than cure since it saves you from the stress, energy, and resources associated with being sick.


If your cat or dog is not on a regular heartworm preventative, the risk of contracting this potentially deadly disease is increased. Remember that it only takes a single heartworm-carrier mosquito to infect your beloved furry companion. Schedule your pet’s checkup today at Santa Monica Pet Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. Call us at (310) 393-8218 for more information.

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