Pet Heart Health and Heartworms
March 07, 2013
The heart is a complex organ and it is important for pet owners
to be aware of the diseases it can develop.
Pet owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart
disease so that they can provide their pet with the best possible
"Humid spring and summer days may cause dogs and cats to suffer
more from mosquito bites that can lead to heartworm disease," said
Dr. Sonya Gordon, associate professor at the Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Dogs have a high
risk of heartworm infection, but cats are also susceptible to the
Pets become infected when a heartworm-infested mosquito bites
the animal, transmitting the heartworm larvae into the tissue of
the pet. As the larvae develop they travel through the tissue and
ultimately settle in the blood vessels of the lungs, which leads to
the development of heartworm disease.
"Heartworms should really be called lungworms because the adult
worm typically lives in the blood vessels of the lungs, not the
heart," said Gordon. "If left untreated, heartworms can lead to
difficulty with breathing and even result in a clog of the right
heart causing Caval Syndrome, which is when blood is prevented from
traveling through the right side of the heart and causes the pet's
abdomen to fill with fluid among other problems."
Signs of heartworm disease can include coughing, difficulty
breathing, fainting, weight loss, and an overall decreased activity
level. A blood test from your local veterinarian can determine if
your pets have the disease.
While treatment for heartworm disease is possible, it is
frequently much more expensive and hazardous than preventative
Treatment for heartworm disease can cost up to $6,000,
contingent on the disease severity, and is generally considered a
dangerous procedure since a lethal substance must be used to
exterminate the worms in the blood vessels and the pet's body must
clean up the deceased worms itself. Treatment can last up to four
months, depending on the severity of the case. During this time the
pet must have their exercise severely restricted.
"The best overall treatment for heartworms is preventative
medicine," said Gordon. "Pet owners have a variety of
treatment options to choose from including once-monthly tablets,
tasty chewable tablets, topical medicines and even injections that
can be given by your veterinarian twice per year. It is
important to use the treatment that works best for you and your
Preventative medicine costs approximately $30-$100 per year, and
is typically administered once a month to prevent heartworm larvae
from developing into adults. Even pets that receive monthly
preventative medicine should have a yearly blood test to ensure
that they do not accidently become infected.
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