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The month of April is known as the National Heartworm Awareness Month. It is a month dedicated to spread awareness about a life-threatening disease called heartworm. Many pets across the globe are fast getting infected by this horrendous disease and thus, it is essential to spread the word so that pet parents can know about this deadly disease.

Heartworm – What It Is?

As you have just read, heartworm is a serious health condition that is fast spreading to all parts of the world. This type of disease mainly affects canines and felines and is caused by a parasite called ‘Dirofilaria immitis’. These foot-long creatures can live and breed in the lungs and the heart of your pets, causing immense discomforts. This can possibly lead to issues like lung disease, heart failure or various other organ failures.

The Transmission

Heartworm-Lifecycle

Microfilaria, the baby worms are produced by the adult female heartworms living in infected dogs. These tiny worms circulate in the bloodstream. The mosquito picks up the baby worms when they bite and take the blood meal from an animal that is already infected with heartworms. These baby worms develop and mature into ‘infective stage’ larvae over a period of 10-14 days. When the infected mosquito bites another animal, the infective larvae are unloaded on the body surface of the animal and enter a new host through the bite wound. Inside a new host, it takes 6 months for the larvae to get mature and turn into the adult stage.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats and Dogs

Heartworm symptoms in cats include:

  • Breathing issues
  • Excessive coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Reduction in weight
  • Gagging
  • Increase in heart rates
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting (either food or blood)
  • Lethargy

Heartworm symptoms in dogs include:

  • Mild persistent cough
  • Loss in weight
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Fatigued
  • Reluctant towards exercising

Not-So-Heartwarming Facts About Heartworm

Since National Heartworm Awareness Month is just around the corner, it is essential to feed pet parents with some facts about this mosquito-transmitted disease.

  • Heartworm affects a large chunk of animals. Unfortunately, they mostly affect dogs, cats and ferrets.
  • Dogs provide the ideal atmosphere for heartworms to mature into adults and are the natural host for most heartworm transmissions.
  • In cats, heartworm can live up to 2-3 years while in dogs that number increases upto 5-7 years.
  • Heartworm can infect as many as 30 species of animals.
  • Diagnosing heartworm disease in cats is a more arduous task than in dogs.
  • As many as 70 different species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting the dangerous heartworm disease.
  • Heartworms cannot directly pass from one animal species to another.
  • Matured or adult heartworms look like spaghetti.
  • Both dogs and cats should be put on regular heartworm prevention.
  • Heartworm disease causes a lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries in dogs.

Diagnosis

It is recommended that you consult a veterinarian if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are seen in your pet. This will help the vet to determine whether to perform testing to confirm the possible illness.

A simple blood test should be the first step towards the diagnosis of the heartworm infection. Once confirmed with the blood test, secondary testing such as x-rays or ultrasound may also be performed.

Preventative Steps to Stall Heartworm

Now that you have a fair idea about this life-threatening mosquito-transmitted disease, it is not only important to spread the word, but also take precautionary steps to prevent heartworm from affecting your furry friend.

  • Regular blood tests and vet check-ups is essential.
  • Limit your buddy’s outdoor play time to prevent him from coming in contact with mosquitoes.
  • Option for heartworm preventatives like Heartgard Plus Chewables to keep your pal well protected.

This National Heartworm Awareness Month pledge to spread the heartworm awareness and at the same time protect your pet furry pal from the same! Happy National Heartworm Awareness Month to you and your buddy!

Author

Jesse McDaniel is an animal activist that raises concerns and spreads awareness regarding pet health issues. She is also a self-proclaimed pet lover who tends to support many pet shelters, assisting them with supplies and medical aid on a regular basis.