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What is Heartworm Disease?

Today, pets are considered members of the family. Our dogs and cats are like our children and we have to keep up with their vet visits and general care. But if you have pets, you have to be aware of the diseases that many dogs and cats are prone to catch. One of the most awful diseases a dog, and yes, even a cat can catch, is Heartworm disease.  So, what is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease can be developed in dogs and cats that live in an environment where there are many mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry Dirofilaria immitis, the larvae that causes this disease. If a dog or cat gets bitten by these mosquitoes, they can become victims of Heartworm disease. The larvae begin the development of the disease and are transferred directly into the pet’s skin when the mosquito bites them and feeds on their blood. As the name implies, this disease primarily affects the heart and often the lungs, even the liver. Symptoms might not appear for months after the animal's been bitten, but when symptoms finally appear, the disease is advanced. The growing worms take residence in the heart and lung arteries and that's when complications start. They will cause respiratory distress and finally heart failure.

Heartworm Life CycleThe disease is easily preventable. Owners need to be aware of the areas they leave in and medicate their pets if they're in areas with large mosquito populations. They should give their animals Heartworm preventative drugs. The vet will check for the presence of Heartworm first, and if all's clear, he or she will give Heartworm prevention medication. If you haven't given these to your dog or cat and you leave in a mosquito prone area, there are specific symptoms that you can be on the lookout for. The most common signs that your pet could be affected by Heartworm disease include a decrease in overall energy level. Your pet easily gets tired and has difficulty breathing. He or she could also be coughing constantly. Look out for weight loss and a swollen belly.

It's a terrible disease and the treatment to cure it once it's taken hold is usually very harmful to the animal. Sometimes the pet doesn't survive the treatment itself. But you have to keep in mind that it is very preventable. It used to be that you could only find Heartworm larvae carrying mosquitoes in southern climates, but now, it's become a global problem. Even areas where you wouldn't suspect the presence of mosquitoes have seen a rise in abandoned houses with unattended pools that become focuses of infection. So, why risk it? Give your pet a once a month treatment for Heartworm and avoid having to go through the nightmare of having a sick pet, and the treatment necessary to cure it.