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Your Pet and Heartworms

April 15, 2020

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. It’s also National Humor Month. However, heartworms are no laughing matter. These nasty parasites can make dogs very sick, and can even be fatal! A San Antonio, TX vet discusses heartworms below.


Basics


Heartworms are certainly aptly named. These nasty parasites take up residence in dogs’ hearts, as well as their lungs and arteries. They also infest foxes, coyotes, and wolves. The worms aren’t spread directly from pup to pup. Instead, they have enlisted everyone’s favorite insect, the mosquito, to transmit them. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, heartworm larvae are deposited in the pup’s bloodstream. After that, it takes about six months for the worms to reach their adult size, which can be up to 12 inches, and start reproducing. At that point, they will begin to interfere with a dog’s vital organs. This is when signs will start to appear. Coughing is often the earliest red flag. Other warning signs include lethargy, shortness of breath, fatigue, reduced interest in play/exercise, lack of appetite, and/or weight loss. Left untreated, infestations can lead to more serious issues, such as fainting, heart attacks, and even death.


Prevention


The only one way to protect your furry buddy from these horrible parasites is to keep up with his parasite control. If your pet hasn’t been on prevention, he’ll need to be tested before starting, as heartworm prevention products won’t kill an infestation. Parasite control is important for kitties, too. Heartworms don’t thrive in cats the way they do in dogs. Most worms die in cats before reaching their full size. Therefore, it’s rare for a kitty to have more than a few. However, they can still cause permanent damage, and can even be fatal. Ask your vet for more information.


Treatment


There is some good news here. There are treatments available for heartworms in dogs. However, these can be expensive. They also aren’t very fun for poor Fido, who will need to have his activities curtailed until he has finished treatment. Some dogs even need to be kenneled. Severe infestations may require surgery. As you can see, it’s much better to protect your four-legged friend from heartworms than it is to treat them after the fact. Better safe than sorry!


Please reach out to us, your San Antonio, TX vet clinic, for all of your pup’s veterinary care needs. We’re here to help!

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