You have probably heard about it numerous times, but what do you truly know about it? What causes it? What exactly does it do, aside from being really bad for your pet? Well here’s a quick and easy breakdown of what Heartworm disease is.
Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm infection has been diagnosed around the globe, including all 50 of the United States, and is considered at least regionally endemic in each of the contiguous 48 states and Hawaii. Heartworms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.
Heartworm disease does not affect dogs and cats the same. Although cats are susceptible hosts, they are more resistant to infection with adult Dirofilaria immitis than are dogs. Most heartworm infections in cats are comparatively light and consist of less than six adult worms. Typically only one or two worms are present and worms in approximately one third of infections are single sex. Cats with only a few worms are still considered to be heavily infected in terms of parasite biomass, however, because of their relatively small body size. Even as few as 1 adult heartworm can be fatal for a cat. There is also no heartworm treatment for cats.
Prevention is key to keeping your pet safe. Preventative medication is also thousands of dollars less in cost than treatment. The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round administration of preventive medication that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent Heartworm disease. Preventative medication comes in many different forms and the type that is best suited for your pet will be recommended by your Veterinarian.