Heartworms are dangerous parasites that can infect both cats and dogs. Your canine pal is more likely to develop the disease as they are better hosts when compared to cats. Without treatment, it can result in death and irreparable damage to internal organs. To keep your loyal companion protected, we recommend a year-round prevention plan. A prevention plan will include annual testing and preventative medication.
While heartworm is not a major concern on the north shore, there is an increased risk when travelling within Canada or to other countries.
When can my cat or dog develop heartworms?
The risk of heartworms is at the highest during mosquito season. This is when mosquitoes are active and can pass on larvae to your loyal companion when they bite them. Late Spring to Fall is around the time when mosquitoes are the most active. However, once the temperature is over 10°C, it’s possible for them to get infected.
What are signs of heartworms?
During the early stages of the infection, your cat or dog won’t show any symptoms. The more worms they are infected with, the more serious their symptoms may become. Cats will experience seizures, fainting, asthma attacks and vomiting. Dogs are more prone to heartworm disease which means they will experience multiple symptoms. Here are signs that your canine companion has heartworms:
- Bloody, dark or coffee-coloured urine
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry persistent cough
- Fatigue or reluctance to exercise
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen abdomen
These signs can be an indication that something much more severe is happening inside your dog or cat’s body. Heartworms can damage the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and blood vessels.
How are heartworms diagnosed?
A simple blood test can be used to diagnose heartworms. The antigen test will only detect the worms after 6.5 to 7 months after exposure. After this period, the adult worms will release proteins that can be identified within the blood. If the test comes back as positive, your veterinarian will do further testing to examine internal organs for damage.