Heartworm Disease

Cat Check-Up

How to Prevent Heartworm Disease – Indianapolis Vet Tips

Heartworms, which are prevalent in the Indianapolis area, are acquired by dogs and cats through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Prevention is the key. Most preventatives are once monthly products. There are topical and oral products available. We carry Trifexis® for dogs and Revolution® for cats. Other products can be obtained if necessary.

Heartworm disease is also called dirofilariais.  It is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs.  Heartworms are found in the heart and adjacent large blood vessels of infected dogs. The female worm is 6 to 14 inches long and the male is about 3 to 7 inches long. One dog may have as many as 300 worms.

Adult heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary vessels.  The female worms produce “baby heartworms” called microfilaria which live in the dog’s bloodstream. The mosquito bites the infected dog, and the microfilaria mature inside the mosquito.

Once it reaches a certain stage in the mosquito, it is transmitted to another dog when the mosquito takes a blood meal.  The infective larva takes 4-6 months to develop in the dog and move into the heart and adjacent blood vessels.

It is important to know that heartworms are not passed directly from dog to dog.  They must pass through a mosquito first.

The first clinical sign of heartworm disease is coughing.  There may also be exercise intolerance, weakness, and lethargy.  In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may be apparent, and the abdomen and legs will accumulate fluid.

Heartworm treatment is usually successful in killing the heartworms.  However, prevention of heartworms is very important because changes to the heart or blood vessels caused by the disease cannot be reversed.

There are several factors which are important about heartworm disease in cats.  This disease is more common than previously thought.  In a recent study, 25% of indoor cats tested positive.  Since the cat’s heart is much smaller than a dog’s, a combination of tests is required to determine that a cat is heartworm positive.

There are no effective treatments for infected cats, and the drugs used for dogs are toxic to cats.  Heartworm infected cats can be stable one day and die suddenly the next.  It is recommeded that cats be given a once-a-month heartworm preventative medication.

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