Damage caused to the heart and lungs by heartworm in untreated dogs is fatal. Because it is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes, it is nearly impossible to predict or avoid, especially in our temperate climate and with mozzies beginning to survive in cooler climates like Melbourne. The parasite works by being injected under your dog’s skin by the infected mosquito, growing from larvae stage and moving eventually to the major blood vessels of heart and lungs (thus the name).
Heartworms can grow to a size that blocks effective flow of blood from the heart to the lungs, and one of the first signs of an infection (albeit in the later stages of infection) will be lethargy and shortness of breath caused by this damage. The worms can also spread to other organs of the body, potential resulting in some pretty serious, and sometime irreparable damage to your pet’s body.
Once the heartworm(s) have taken up residence in your pooch’s organs, the damage can be painful for your pup, and if left untreated, deadly. That is why we take great care in reminding our pet owners that consistent treatment and a keen eye for early warning signs of infection are crucial and may be your only defense against this disease that leaves every untreated dog with a one in ten chance of infestation.
Signs of heartworm disease in your dog ~
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Resistance to exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Pale gums
- Audible cough
- Excess thirst
- Weight loss
- Sudden collapse
Even though this disease is spread by mosquitoes, most vets will strongly recommend year-round protection to Australian residents, as our temperatures soar, our tropical climate encourages humidity, and even phenomenon like floods throughout the cooler months can cause a spike in the number of mosquitoes evident in our environment.
While many of our clients accidently lose track of regular heartworming treatments, we cannot stress enough that over the counter monthly tablets are only effective IF they are given regularly and on time. If you aren’t a particularly organized fur-parent, perhaps our annual injection might give you the peace of mind and your pet the protection you both deserve.
Can heartworm effect my cat?
Despite dogs being the most likely to suffer with heartworm disease and present in the DVS clinic, cats can also be infected with the parasitic worm. Be warned that cats are more likely to suffer the damage of infestation quickly, with one worm often being responsible for the sudden collapse and death of a feline. Be on high alert for signs of heartworm disease in your cat (shortness of breath, coughing, lethargy), which although sometimes harder to spot in lazy kitties, should spur you to seek veterinary advice immediately.
Why prevention is ALWAYS better than a cure ~
The treatment for heartworm in dogs and cats is complicated. It can also be lengthy and expensive, and while we loathe to say it, sometimes ineffective. Of course, we always strive to provide our best treatment to our poorly pets, the slow progress of the disease and often late diagnosis can result in a ‘too little, too late’ dilemma.
Prevention is ALWAYS better than a cure.
If you can’t remember the last time you treated your dog or cat with a heartworm preventative, would like to discuss our over the counter or annual treatment plans, or suspect your pet could be suffering with the debilitating and painful effects of heartworm infestation, please do not hesitate to book an appointment or drop us a line on 03 9369 1822.
We will endeavor to help you and your fur family protect yourselves from this very sad and dangerous disease as promptly as possible.