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Dogs and cats face a variety of parasitic creatures, especially those who spend lots of time outdoors amongst mosquitos and other disease carriers. Heartworms are one such common threat and a heartworm infestation is just as dangerous as it sounds. These parasitic worms, which are spread via mosquito bites, can infiltrate a dog or cat's heart and lungs to cause progressive cardiopulmonary failure. That's why it's so important to protect your beloved companion against this threat by letting the experienced team at Richview Animal Hospital administer the proper preventative care and treatment.
A heartworm is a specific type of roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis which is deposited into the next host by the bite of the mosquito. The larvae settle into the pulmonary blood vessels, where they grow into long, spaghetti-like adult worms which reproduce, creating new larvae for future mosquitos to pick up and transfer. While the maturation process can take months, the mature heartworms can live for up to 7 years inside your pet's heart and lungs.
A case of heartworm can have devastating effects on your pet's health, although you might not notice any symptoms for a very long time. Dogs tend to cough following exertion, and their energy level may decline significantly. Later symptoms include pale gums and fluid on the abdomen. Cats can also suffer respiratory problems resembling asthma symptoms, accompanied by weight loss and vomiting. Heartworm can eventually lead to death from heart and lung failure.
Treatment for heartworm can be a tricky proposition. A drug called Immiticide can kill the adult worms in your dog, but at a risk of toxicity and blood clot formation. No current heartworm drug is safe enough to kill a heartworm infestation in cats, because expelling the killed heartworms can cause a severe toxic reaction. That's why preventing heartworm infestation should take top priority for pet owners. Our veterinary team at Richview Animal Hospital can put your dog or cat on a schedule of preventative medications which may take the form of oral tablets or topical liquids. It's even possible to administer an injection that protects against heartworm for up to 6 months at a time. We will advise you on the available options you can make the best choice for your pet's specific needs and lifestyle.
Testing for heartworm is an absolute necessity before any kind of preventative regimen can be administered. If preventative medications are introduced into the body of a pet that is already infested, an extremely dangerous reaction can occur. We recommend having your dog tested for heartworm whenever you move to a heartworm-troubled region or if your pet has gone without medication for any length of time. Call Richview Animal Hospital at 416-245-8805 today to schedule heartworm testing and prevention for your pet!