Know Thy Enemy: Heartworms in Pets
Heartworms are a parasite that every pet owner should be familiar with. How much do you really know about this serious and formidable foe? See if you can answer the following questions.
Q: True or false? Heartworms only affect dogs.
A: False. While heartworm disease is mostly a dog problem, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and sea lions can all be infected.
Q: True or false? Heartworms are transmitted from one pet to another via close contact.
A: False. Heartworms are transmitted when a mosquito bites an infected dog and then bites another pet.
Q: True or false? Heartworms are detected by checking a stool sample.
A: False. Heartworms live in the circulatory system and are detected using a blood sample.
Q: True or false? Sometimes an infected pet’s only symptom of heartworm infection is death.
A: True. Because heartworms accumulate gradually in the body, clinical signs may not be easily noticed. While a cough, loss of energy, and weight loss are commonly seen, occasionally sudden death may be the only sign of a problem, particularly in cats.
Q: True or false? My pet doesn’t go outdoors, so it does not need preventative medications.
A: False. While outdoor pets are at greatest risk, mosquitoes can get into the house.
Q: True or false? Heartworm preventative medications are recommended year round, no matter where you live.
A: True. While heartworms are more common in certain parts of the country, heartworm disease has been diagnosed in every state. Preventative medications have been shown to be most effective when given every month.
Q: True or false? There is no cure for heartworms.
A: Well, both. Dogs can be treated with a drug called melarsomine, however the damage done to the circulatory system by the worms is irreversible. There is no cure for cats that are infected.
How did you do? We encourage you to learn more about heartworm disease and how it affects your pets. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have at your next visit, or visit The Heartworm Society for more information.