Heartworm can be fatal if left untreated.
What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm Disease is caused by the blood parasite Dirofilaria immitis. Immature heartworms are transmitted to a healthy animal by a mosquito that has recently ingested blood from an infected animal. These take 6 months to develop in the bloodstream into adult heartworms, which then travel to the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery where they take up residence. A single adult heartworm can grow up to one foot in length. There can be anywhere from a few to several dozen adult heartworms living in an infected animal’s heart. Without treatment, heartworm disease is almost always fatal.
Early on in the disease, there may be no obvious symptoms. Once the infection becomes established, the animal may experience coughing, exercise intolerance, abnormal lung sounds, difficulty breathing, enlargement of the liver, abnormal heart sounds, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, and temporary loss of consciousness due to poor blood flow to the brain.
Heartworm disease can be detected by a simple blood test. A small amount of blood is taken and sent to a laboratory for processing. A negative test means that there is no infection, and your animal will then be prescribed a monthly preventative, either in the form of a pill or a topical spot-on product.
If your animal tests positive for heartworm disease, your veterinarian will discuss the treatment plan with you. Other tests may be recommended to determine the severity of the infection, such as chest x-rays or an ultrasound, prior to initiating treatment.
All dogs and cats are at risk for exposure. All it takes for your pet to be infected is a mosquito source and an infected animal living nearby. At San Diego Pet Hospital of Lemon Grove, we recommend an annual test and monthly heartworm preventative for all dogs and cats.
Test your dog today!
For the month of July 2013, San Diego Pet Hospital of Lemon Grove is offering a 20% discount on heartworm testing.
Call us at 619-462-6600 for details and an appointment.