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Posted on 09-07-2017
Transmitted by mosquitoes infected with larval heartworms (microfilaria), heartworm is a potentially fatal parasitic infection targeting the heart, arteries, and lungs of dogs, foxes, wolves, and cats. Although an animal infected with heartworm cannot pass the infection to other animals, mosquitoes carrying micro filaria can infect hundreds of other animals before it dies. Once the mosquito bites an animal, immature worms enter the animal's bloodstream, eventually settling in the heart where they develop rapidly. During spring and summer, your Winter Garden veterinarian strongly urges pet owners to start their pets on a heartworm prevention plan consisting of monthly oral or topical medications.
Pets suffering a heartworm infection rarely show symptoms until the infection has reached Class Three stage of the disease. If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm, your veterinarian will rate the severity of the infection according to classes. Class One means an animal presents no symptoms. Class Two symptoms involve mild coughing and slight exercise intolerance.
Class Three indicates the animal has suffered from heartworm for at least six months and now has a weak pulse, abnormal heart and lung sounds, weight loss and serious lack of exercise tolerance. Caval syndrome (Class Four) affects animals in an advanced stage of heartworm infection. Caval syndrome is marked by life-threatening heart failure, labored breathing, dark brown urine and pale gums. Heartworm treatment is not usually successful for animals experiencing Caval syndrome.
Heartworm infection is easily preventable using FDA-approved tablets, topicals, and injections. For pets with heartworm that has not advanced past class three, vets can give them an injection of Immiticide that kills existing heartworms and prevents future heartworm infections. Monthly heartworm preventive tablets are also available as well as topicals that can be applied to the skin at the back of an animal's neck.
Before giving your pet a heartworm preventive, your Windermere vet recommends having your pet tested for heartworms. To schedule an appointment at our Winter Garden Animal Hospital, call 407-656-4132 today. We look forward to meeting with you!
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