What is heartworm disease? Heartworm disease is a parasite infection in the heart, transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites an animal, an immature form of the heartworm is passed to the animal. The worms grow into adults that live in the heart and nearby blood vessels, which can cause heart, blood vessel, lung, and other organ problems. The disease can be fatal and affects primarily dogs, however cats can also be infected.
Is heartworm disease in central Illinois? Yes! Heartworm positive animals have been found right here in Shelby county.
What are the signs of heartworm disease? A recently infected animal may initially show no signs at all. Some of the later signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, unwillingness to exercise, coughing or breathing problems. In cats, vomiting may also be a sign.
How is heartworm disease diagnosed? In dogs, heartworm disease is diagnosed by a simple blood test done in the clinic. A very small sample of blood is taken, and results are available in approximately 10 minutes. If a patient is heartworm positive, further diagnostic tests will be done to determine the severity of the disease before treatment begins. Currently, diagnosing and treating heartworm disease in cats is an evolving subject.
Can heartworm disease be treated? There is a treatment available for heartworm infected dogs, but it does carry some risk of complications and can be expensive. The best option is to prevent the disease.
Can heartworm disease be prevented? This disease is nearly 100% preventable! Preventives given just once a month are available for both dogs and cats. A tasty treat containing the heartworm preventive is available for dogs, and cats receive a topical spot-on product. Dogs should be tested for heartworm disease before beginning prevention. They should also be re-tested annually, to check the pet's status.