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When mosquitoes bite, they can also transmit heartworm infection, and those heartworms can wreak havoc on your dog or cat. These internal parasites can severely and sometimes fatally damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some pets may not show any outward signs of infection, and in those that do, symptoms can vary widely.
In dogs, signs of heartworm disease can range from coughing, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss to difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation from heart failure). Canine heartworm infection can also lead to a life-threatening complication called “caval syndrome” (a form of liver failure). Without prompt surgical intervention, this condition usually results in death.
Although often thought to not be susceptible to heartworm infection, cats can indeed get heartworms. Specifically, felines can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD), the symptoms of which can be subtle and may mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis. Signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficulty breathing, wheezing, and panting, are common. Other symptoms include coughing, vomiting (typically unrelated to eating), and unexplained loss of appetite or weight. Heartworm infection is more difficult to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs.
Treating heartworm infection is far more expensive than preventing it—and doing so can actually be fatal in dogs. There is currently no approved treatment for cats. While some cats may spontaneously rid themselves of the infection, others sadly might not survive it. Furthermore, even one or two adult heartworms in a cat can cause serious problems.
Fortunately, there’s a way to keep your dog or cat safe: by administering monthly heartworm preventives. Most heartworm medications also protect your pet against other dangerous parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, ear mites, fleas, and ticks. The seasoned team at Huron East Animal Hospital will gladly recommend a regimen of prevention for your pet.
Huron East Animal Hospital
A4-1606 Battler Rd
Kitchener, Ontario N2R 0C9
Mon – Fri: 8am – 6pm
Saturday: 8am – 5pm
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