You may have heard the severity about heartworms but you may not know the entire story. First of all, this dangerous disease is based on internal parasites that lodge themselves into your dog or cat’s heart, hence the name. The spaghetti-like worms are typically six to ten inches in length! By causing damage to the heart and lungs, untreated heartworms have the potential to be deadly. As for the good news? They evolve through various life cycles before turning into adults by finding a home in the dog or cat’s heart.
The worms actually require a mosquito during one of the life stages to complete the evolution. Essentially the mosquito bites a heartworm infected dog or cat and ingests the worm’s larvae from the infected host. Next, the mosquito transfers the larvae to another uninfected host the next time it bites another animal. Reproduction in the larvae occurs in the heart of the host. Within the next two to three months, the larvae have found their way to the animal’s heart and as long as female and male heartworms are present, they reproduce and can fester for several years, thereby perpetuating the cycle.
Your dog or cat may or may not show early symptoms depending on a variety of factors depending on the infestation and your pet’s activity. For instance, active dogs and cats may experience heartworm symptoms which reflect lower concentrations yet they may have more intense symptoms than less active animals. At this point, infestation may reach the lungs at which point the adult worms move around the heart and reproduce yet again. Advanced cases within dogs may progress to severe weight loss, coughing up blood, fainting, and possibly heart attacks.
Signs in cats are drastically different than possible symptoms in dogs. For instance, cats may live with heartworm disease without any outward symptoms or they may instantly die without demonstrating any symptoms. While these are the extremes, typically cats show signs of asthma which are marked by coughing and difficulty breathing. When in doubt, call your veterinarian immediately who will begin diagnosis by conducting a blood test.
At The Dog Bowl, nothing is more important than your pets’ health and well being. For more information about heartworms contact your veterinarian.