Heartworms in dogs can cause devastating illness and slow death for those that are not properly treated for this parasite. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms can grow to be as long as 14 inches. Though they originally live in your dog’s heart, over time they migrate to his or her other vital organs, such as the kidneys and liver, as well. The result is damage to these organs and their eventual failure without proper treatment.
There are several signs that your dog might have heartworms. One of the first signs that pet owners usually notice about their dog is a soft and dry cough as the parasites move to the lungs and begin multiplying there. Other symptoms you might notice include:
It is important to remember, though, that—like many other conditions—the symptoms of heartworms can mirror those of other illnesses. In fact, the symptoms of a heartworm infection can take months to appear. During that time, your pet’s organs are under attack by an insidious parasite whose infection is completely preventable. The only way to confirm that your dog has heartworms is to bring her or him to Shackleford Road Veterinary Clinic for testing.
Taking a preventive approach to heartworms is one of the most important things you can do for your dog. At Shackleford Road Veterinary Clinic, we urge you to begin testing your puppies between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks. Thereafter, your dog should be tested on an annual basis once he or she is over the age of six months. Unlike in some other climates in the country, pets that live in Little Rock need to be kept on a year-round treatment plan for heartworms. Our relatively mild climate provides a welcome environment for mosquitoes.
Heartworm infestation does not get the same amount of attention in cats as it does in dogs. There are several reasons for this discrepancy including cats’ built-in resistance to the parasites, limited diagnostic testing and symptoms that often don’t point to heartworms. Cats that have coughing are often diagnosed with asthma, in part because of the difficulty in determining if heartworms are the true reason. At Shackleford Road Veterinary Clinic, we use a variety of diagnostic tools to determine the condition of your feline friend.
To learn more about heartworms, visit the Heartworm Society.