Cinema Veterinary Centre

Heartworm Awareness Month

Posted on Apr 05, 2013 by jronchetto  | Tags: pet safety

April is Heartworm Awareness Month here at Cinema Veterinary Centre and we would like to share some of our knowledge about heartworm disease with you.  If you haven’t heard of heartworm disease before that is probably because it is much more prominent in the east coast and south, but since Hurricane Katrina, Southern California has seen several outbreaks of heartworm in local areas. The local coyote populations also carry this disease.

Heartworms are parasites that live in the arteries of your pet’s lungs and, in severe cases, in the right side of their heart chambers. These parasites are a species of roundworms that need an insect species to spread it from animal to animal. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected with microfilariae while taking a blood meal from an infected dog. Within the mosquito, the microfilariae mature into the infective larval stage. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat, or susceptible animal, the larvae are deposited on the skin and actively migrate into the new host. For about 2 months the larvae migrate through the connective tissue, under the skin, then pass into the animal's venous blood stream and are quickly transported to the arteries of the lung. It takes a total of approximately six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms that begin producing offspring, microfilariae.  Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in the dog. (Source: American Heartworm Society). 

Adult worms living in the pulmonary arteries and the heart can cause extensive damage to these organs as well as cause dysfunction of the liver and the kidneys.  Infected dogs may exhibit clinical signs associated with lung and heart dysfunction including a cough, exercise intolerance and difficulty breathing. But in very acute or mild infections may not show any signs at all!

While treatment is available and usually successful for dogs that are infected, prevention is much safer and by far more economical.  We recommend for all of our canine patients to be on a monthly heartworm preventative, in either a chewable or topical form.  We offer quick 10 minute blood test that tests your pet for the presence of the disease and if negative, your pet can be placed on the monthly preventative.  Even with prevention, it is recommended that pets be tested for heartworm disease on an annual basis.  Call or come in to ask us more about how you can protect your dog or cat from this disease!

Additional information can be found online at the American Heartworm Society.