Heartworm disease caused by a parasite and may be spread by mosquitoes between animals. After a dog is bitten by a mosquito with the disease, the heart worm larvae matures into an adult heartworm within months. They may grow up to 14inches in length and cause damage to the blood vessels as well as reduce the heart’s pumping ability, resulting in severe lung and heart disease.
If your pet has heart worm disease, he or she may have the following clinical signs:
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor stamina
If any of the following clinical signs are noted, your pet should be brought to the vet immediately. Blood tests may be done to detect the presence of the heartworm and further tests such as chest radiographs, blood profile or an ultrasound of the heart may be required to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the infection.
There are several treatments for dogs or cats if they are infected which has its own risks. Therefore, it is highly recommended to start your pet on heartworm prevention from young. Your vet might recommend a heart worm test before starting on the preventative medication and six months after to evaluate all life stages of the worm. Your pet should then be on heartworm prevention for life.