Heartworm Disease in Pets: Should I Worry?

Our furry friends experience illness just like we do. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to monitor your dog’s or cat’s behavior to note any symptoms of illness or injury. While some conditions require only minor medical attention, others, like heartworm disease, demand costly treatments with no guarantee that your four-legged friend will survive. That’s why pet owners need to take heartworm disease prevention in Fresno, CA very seriously.

What is heartworm disease?

Mosquitoes serving as intermediate hosts to this parasite are the only real heartworm disease cause in Fresno, CA. Infected mosquitoes bite a dog or cat and pass along a parasitic roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis, or heartworm.

When a mosquito bites a dog or cat already suffering from heartworm disease, the mosquito becomes infected with microfilariae produced by female heartworms. Over the next 10 to 14 days, the now-infected mosquito provides the right environment for the microfilariae to develop into infective larvae. That mosquito then passes along the infected larvae when it bites another dog or cat. Dogs and cats cannot pass heartworm disease to one another.

As they mature in the cat’s or dog’s body, adult heartworms take up residence in the animal’s heart, lungs and connected blood vessels. When fully grown, heartworms measure up to a foot in length. Heartworm can survive in a pet’s body for up to seven years. Over time, they mate inside the animal, so there’s eventually dozens of heartworms causing a wide range of problems for your beloved pet.

The four stages of heartworm disease

The phrase “worm burden” applies to the number of worms living inside an infected animal. The average amount is 15, but this number ranges from one to 250. The various stages of heartworm disease correlate to the animal’s worm burden:

Class 1 heartworm disease: The animal experiences no or mild symptoms, like coughing every so often.

Class 2: Symptoms are mild to moderate, as the pet coughs more regularly and experiences fatigue after routine activity.

Class 3: This is indicated by severe symptoms, such as an unhealthy appearance, regular coughing, signs of heart failure, trouble breathing and fatigue following low-energy activity.

Class 4: This phase is called caval syndrome, and it can be fatal. This occurs when the worm burden increases enough that these parasites block blood flow to and from the heart. To remove the blockage, a veterinarian must perform a high-risk surgery on the infected animal.

Protecting your pets from heartworm disease

There’s little we can do to stop mosquitoes from biting our pets. However, you can take steps to protect your pet from this terrible plight by administering treatments for heartworm disease prevention in Fresno, CA. There are numerous FDA-approved treatment options available for canines and felines, but they require a prescription from a veterinarian. Most of these treatments require a monthly application.

If you have questions about heartworm disease causes in Fresno, CA, get in touch with us now. At Sunnyside Pet Hospital, we perform blood tests and take x-rays to diagnose heartworm disease in your pets. Make an appointment for your pet to meet with our veterinarian so you can discuss your heartworm disease concerns and questions.