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Posted on 08-24-2012

Heartworm in dogs and cats is a dangerous disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease is directly correlated to the number of worms actually living within your pet's heart and the duration of the infection. Outdoor and indoor pets are susceptible as mosquito's can easily come indoors or through screens.002_1.JPG

Cats are at a lower risk for heartworm disease but outdoor cats or cats that live in the south should be on a monthly preventative, such as Revolution. When cats contract heartworm disease they have a lower average worm burden, the worms are smaller and have a shorter life span. However, these worms can cause serious damage as they migrate through the cat's lungs. Symptoms can range from mild cough to severe asthma like signs.

Treatment of heartworm disease can be very dangerous for your dog depending on the worm burden in the heart. Chest x-rays will determine if your infected pet is a Class 1 (normal heart appearance) to a Class 3 (severe enlargement of the heart). The medication called a microfilaricide, to treat heartworm disease, is given by a deep intramuscular injection. There can be tenderness, soreness and swelling at the site of injection. For the next 4-6 weeks, there is strict restriction of activity and cage confinement for 3 weeks is recommended for Class 3 dogs. Affected dogs have a total of 3 treatments: day 1, day 30 and day 31. The medication can cause potentially fatal complications in the lungs in those patients with moderate to severe disease.

001_1.JPGSymptoms of a dog with heartworm disease are coughing, exercise intolerance, anorexia, lethargy and abnormal heart rhythm and heart sounds. Keeping your dog or cat on heartworm prevention monthly is the easiest and safest mode for prevention. Our veterinarians will perform an annual heartworm test to ensure they have not been infected even if they have been on monthly preventatives.

To avoid going through this treatment which is costly and dangerous for your pet please keep your pets on monthly heartworm prevention. Please contact our staff at Eagle Animal Hospital if you would like to discuss heartworm prevention for you pet.

Eagle Animal Hospital serves Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and surrounding areas.

Written by Amy Poole, veterinary technician

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