Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Summer Pet Tips: Heartworm Disease

Mosquito season is just about here, so it is time to think about heartworms and prevention. Most people think of dogs when they think of heartworms but cats can also get the disease, even indoor cats. Heartworm disease is a parasitic disease that involves long thin worms that live in the blood vessels and heart of infected pets. The worms will grow until they reach a length of 10 to 12 inches at maturity. Heartworm disease causes lung disease and heart failure and is often fatal. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and can infect both dogs and cats.

According to PetPlace.com, “cats that are indoors may actually be at higher risk than cats that go out. In fact, up to 33 percent of reported cases are in cats who are described by their owners as ‘strictly indoors.’ Males are a bit more likely than females to be affected. Age is not a risk factor; cats of any age can be affected, with cats as young as 1 and as old as 17 having been diagnosed.”

Heartworms can be found in most parts of the United States and Canada, particularly near bodies of water like oceans, lakes, rivers. Remember, heartworms are transported by mosquitoes (who need water to survive), so that is how the disease is spread. The highest rate of infections is found in subtropical climates like those of the southeastern United States, the Gulf States, and Hawaii.

”When compared to dogs, cats are naturally resistant to heartworms (estimated at about one-fifth as likely to become seriously infected as dogs in the same region); however, heartworm disease in cats is often more severe than in dogs,” says PetPlace.com.

Either way, both dogs and cats (whether indoors or out) are capable of getting Heartworm Disease. Luckily, it can easily be prevented, so individuals living in high risk areas should talk to their veterinarian about starting a heartworm preventative. In most cases, a chewable or pill is given daily or monthly. However, in other areas, it may be recommended that pets be on a heartworm preventative through the year.

Have your dog tested for Heartworm Disease and talk to your veterinarian about having your cat tested, if recommended. Do NOT use your canine heartworm medicine for your cat. The drug dosing is very different between species. Speak to your veterinarian about the need for preventative therapy, administration guidelines and when to start and stop prevention treatments.

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