Heartworm Q&A

September 26, 2019

Is there a heartworm risk in our area?

An emphatic yes! Heartworm disease in our area has become a present and permanent threat. The parasite has adapted to life in cooler climates and is being carried northward by migrating coyotes, moving through California, Oregon, and into Washington.

Dr. Michael Dryden, an independent researcher and the world’s foremost authority on fleas, intestinal parasites, and heartworm disease, confirms the increasing incidence of heartworm disease in our area. Dr. Randall Felts first spoke with Dr. Dryden in July of 2007 and was informed of the new risk of heartworm disease in the Pacific Northwest.

Do these worms really live in my dog’s heart?

Yes! Once a dog is infected, adult worms take six months to develop. The fully-developed worms, about the size of a piece of cooked spaghetti, migrate from the intestine to the heart and major blood vessels. This leads to impaired blood flow and can eventually cause congestive heart failure. Dying worms can also move from the heart to the lungs, resulting in massive pulmonary thromboembolism and death.

But I don’t have to worry about my cat, do I?

Your cat is also at risk. Previously, heartworm disease was thought to be extremely rare in cats; however, recent research shows that cats are not immune but instead manifest a completely different disease. In cats, the adult worms migrate primarily to the lungs, causing a respiratory disease similar to asthma.

But my pet doesn’t see many other animals.

All cats and dogs are at risk. In fact, twenty-eight percent of cats tested positive for heartworm in endemic areas were indoor-only pets. Heartworm can be spread from victim to victim by the bite of a single infected mosquito which may have come from many miles away. Exposure to heartworm disease has little to do with the lifestyle of your pet.

What can I do for my pets?

Treatment is available for heartworm-positive dogs but it is hazardous–the body’s severe reaction to dying worms in the heart, lungs, and circulatory system can be fatal. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for heartworm-positive cats. Therefore, prevention is key!

We offer safe, effective, and inexpensive monthly chewable medication for cats and dogs. We recommend Interceptor for dogs, which also guards against roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Learn more about these internal parasites. We find that most cats prefer the taste of Heartguard.

If your cat is already using a topical flea preventative like Advantage or Frontline, consider switching to Revolution. Revolution protects your cat from heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm in addition to fleas.

A quick blood test is necessary to ensure your pet is heartworm negative before taking medication for the first time; this test must be repeated annually for dogs.

Call us today to discuss prevention options with your veterinarian.

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