Caused by the parasite Diroflaria Immitus, heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease that can infect your dogs and cats. This parasite is transmitted to dogs through the bile of mosquitos. The adult worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of the host. These worms can grow up to a foot long. They usually live on mammals such as wolves, coyotes, dogs and cats. In some very rare instances humans can also carry this parasite.
Signs and Symptoms
There are many signs of Heartworm disease. The main ones are coughing and an inability to exercise. The animal stops growing or the process of growing is slowed down and the gums and skin take on a blue or purple tinge. They might even start spitting up blood. Dogs hat are very hyper and active show the symptoms more quickly.
An animal hospital or your veterinarian clinic should be your first stop when your pets starts exhibiting these signs. An antigen detection test is carried out on your pet. This is the first kind of diagnostic test and verification of heartworm disease. The drawback of this test is that it does not identify the earliest stages of the disease as it is only capable of identifying grown, adult heartworms. Chest x rays may also be done on the animal suffering from these symptoms and blood tests are also carried out.
All pets should be tested annually for heartworms. The disease if rarely, If ever curable, therefore it is better to take preventive measures for your animals rather than treating them for the disease.
To have your pet checked, contact Dr. Stephanie Murphree at Republic Veterinary Hospital at (512) 269-0738.
Heartworms in Dogs and Cats
Dogs are the natural host of the heartworm. The heartworms present in dogs are most likely to mature and reproduce. Dogs can contain up to several hundred worms in their bodies and this leaves a very lasting effect on the mammals that remains even after the disease has been cured. In cats this disease has a different way of exhibiting itself. These worms usually do not survive to become adults in cats. This leads to the disease going undiagnosed because only the smaller worms stay alive and those that grow soon die out.
Transmission of the disease
The heartworms live inside the blood vessels of infected animals. These are usually foxes, wolves or coyotes. The carrier of the heartworm larvae is the mosquito. When the adults lay eggs into the blood vessels of the infected animal, and the mosquito comes and bites these infected animals, they become carriers of the larvae. As a result, when the mosquito goes and bites another animal, the larvae are transmitted to the blood vessels of the other animal. It takes about six months for the larvae to develop into adult heartworms which can live up to 7 years in dogs and 2 to 3 years in cats.