When you think of pet parasites, you probably picture your dog or cat scratching at fleas. Those can make your pet miserable, but a more serious parasite to watch for is heartworm. Heartworm disease is always serious and can be fatal if left untreated. At Viking Drive Veterinary Hospital in Bossier City, we always make heartworm prevention a part of your pet's disease prevention plan.
What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworms are exactly what they sound like: foot-long worms that invade an animal's body and take up residence in the heart (along with the lungs and blood vessels). Heartworm disease can cause heart failure, lung disease, and organ damage throughout the body.
Dogs are natural hosts for heartworm, which means if your dog gets infected, the worms can live, mature, and multiply in their body. The numbers will continue to increase if left untreated, and some pets have been found infested with several hundred worms. The damage done to a dog's body can last long after the worms have been removed, which is why heartworm prevention is so important.
Cats are not typical hosts for heartworms, but they can become infected. Most worms don't survive to the adult stage inside a cat's body. If your cat has adult heartworms, it's usually only one to three specimens. This can make it even more difficult to diagnose heartworm in cats. The worms can still cause respiratory damage while they're young, and there is no treatment for infected cats, so prevention is the only way to keep your pet healthy and free from this parasite.
How a Veterinarian Treats Heartworm
The first step our veterinarian will take is to test your pet for heartworm. For dogs, it's a simple blood test that we'll do during your pet's annual wellness examination. It's a little more difficult to test cats for heartworm. We'll use a couple of different blood tests and may use x-rays, as well, to look for the infection.
Once your pet has been confirmed free of heartworm, we'll put them on a prevention plan. This consists of an oral medication, usually in the form of a chewy bite. It's important that you give the medication every month on the exact same date because skipping even one day can allow your pet's immunity to be compromised. Testing every year and continuing the medication schedule is the best way to keep them free from heartworm disease.
Contact Our Bossier City Animal Hospital
Heartworm prevention and safety for your pet always begins with a thorough pet wellness exam. If your pet is due, give our office in Bossier City a call at (318) 747-9150 to schedule an appointment at Viking Drive Veterinary Hospital today.