Heartworm is a nasty disease that attacks one of the most precious parts of your pet – their heart. As an owner, you can play a big part in ensuring your canine or feline never suffers with such an infestation.
Heartworm in Australia
Heartworms are transmitted to your pet via mosquito bites. It only takes onebite to be infected. Considering there are hundreds of species of mozzies Australia-wide, the chances of your furry friend getting bitten are pretty high.
In the past, the northern regions of Australia were hotspots for mozzies due to their tropical climate, but that’s not the case anymore. Mozzies now breed in prolific numbers in just about all parts of our great brown land and at all times of the year.
How pets gets heartworm?
A mosquito bites a heartworm-infected animal (dog, fox, ferret or cat)
The mozzie ingests heartworm larvae
It then bites and infects the next animal (your pet) it feeds on with the larvae
The larvae develop in the pet’s tissues & migrate to the heart & surrounding blood vessels
They then grow into worms
The worms continue to produce more offspring & the cycle continue
Did you know mosquito born diseases are increasing?
Cats are infected by heartworms the same way dogs are. But there’s a difference when it comes to worm development.
Heartworms prefer dogs over cats as hosts so felines aren’t infected as often. Furthermore, most worms fail to survive to the adult stage in cats. But this doesn’t mean they don’t require protection. It’s actually quite the opposite!
A heartworm infection in a cat is more likely to be severe no matter how many worms they are, or what size they are. Feline heartworm infections are also much harder to diagnose and by the time they are caught, much damage has been done to the heart and lungs. Sometimes, it’s simply too late.
Heartworms take their time to grow in a dog’s body – anywhere from 5 to 7 years! So it might take a while for your dog to show any signs of infection and often by then, heart – and sometimes lung – damage has already been done.
Signs of Heartworm in Dogs
Signs of Heartworm in Dogs
- Reluctance to exercise
- Difficulty breathing
- Bleeding from the nose
- Enlarged abdomen and/or weight loss
In extreme infections, sudden death occurs when the canine’s heart gives out due to the burden of heartworms.
Your vet can diagnose a case of heartworm via blood tests, ultrasound or CT scans.
Signs of Heartworm in Cats
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue or reluctance to exercise
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If your cat experiences any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet so they can test for a heartworm infection.
Heartworms live in dogs for 5-7 years & in cats for 2-3 years!
Check out this little video … it’s not confronting but it does make you think!
Unlike with dogs, there is no safe way to kill heartworms in cats. That’s why prevention is even more important for your furry friend.
What you can do?
Using a monthly heartworm product is the best way to protect your cat. Unfortunately, the yearly heartworm injection is not suitable for the feline population, but with the rapid advances in the veterinary field, hopefully it will be one day soon.
As you can see, a heartworm infection poses a real threat to your beloved pet. But with a bit of proactive prevention, you can ensure they remain worm-free and heart-healthy all year round.
Case study – Heartworm infection in an Australian Terrier
The female Australian Terrier is a regular patient at the vet clinic. She’d been visiting the clinic consistently for 10 years for her annual health check and received a yearly preventive heartworm injection. However, she missed her regular health checks in 2016 and 2017 … and also missed her preventive injections.
In February 2018, her owner brought her into the clinic for a clip and check-up. As the dog was so far overdue, the vet performed a heartworm test.
- Heartworm infection
- Adult worms but not larvae (indicates dog infected approximately six months prior)
The dog was not showing any symptoms of heartworm infection so the vet was able to treat her with a modified version of the standard heartworm treatment protocol. Had she been showing symptoms, the treatment would be more aggressive, including exercise restriction.
The case is still ongoing, with hopes the dog will make a full recovery.
What this case study clearly illustrates is there’s no room for complacency when it comes to your animal’s annual health check, and/or their monthly heartworm tablet. Just one missed dose, yearly check or injection can have dire consequences.
To keep your precious pet safe, schedule your annual vet visit today. One yearly jab is all it takes to protect your pooch’s heart.
Click the bar above to read all about a recent case of heartworm detected in a lovely little Australian Terrier.
“You just cannot afford to miss regular Heartworm treatment – ever.
Don’t take any chances. A yearly injection is the best defence you can get for you Dog”
Dr John Anstee
Fur Life Vet Deniliquin