With the coming of the spring and summer seasons comes an influx of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous vectors of disease and carry some of the most dangerous zoonosis, including heartworm disease. Because of this, it is critical to maintain your dog’s heartworm testing each year and keep them on a monthly preventive.
East Sacramento Veterinary Center wants to give you an overview of heartworm disease in pets so you know why screening is an essential tool in detecting this serious parasitic disease.
Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Heartworm is a parasite that gets into the animal host through the bite of an infected mosquito. These tiny heartworms, or microfilariae, travel through the bloodstream where they develop in the heart and lungs. Over time, these microfilariae develop into adult heartworms, typically within 6 months, where they can grow to a length of 12-14 inches.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease that affects dogs, cats, and ferrets. The disease is more often seen in dogs, however. Heartworm causes lasting damage to the heart and lungs and is difficult and costly to treat when factoring in costs for medications, veterinary visits to stabilize the symptoms, and, in extreme cases surgery.
Signs of heartworm in dogs include:
- Persistent cough
- Reluctance to play or exercise
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
- Labored breathing
- Pale gums
The Importance of Testing
Because of the seriousness of the disease, there are two important things you must do to prevent heartworm disease: have your dog screened annually for the disease, and keep them on a monthly heartworm preventive. More than two-thirds of all dogs are not on any parasite preventive, which significantly increases their risk for contracting preventable diseases like heartworm.
The combination of regular screening and monthly preventives helps you ensure your pets are heartworm free. To learn more about heartworm testing, heartworm prevention, or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (916) 347-5356 or request an appointment online.