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Heartworms pose a significant risk to our beloved pets. Heartworms are often considered one of the deadliest parasites due to the debilitating effects that an infection can cause. Arming yourself with knowledge, like some of the questions our vets in Jacksonville, FL are most frequently asked about heartworms, and a regularly administered heartworm preventative, will help keep your fur-baby happy and healthy.
Dogs are the most natural host for heartworms and the majority of cases we deal with involve canines. However, it is not unheard of for cats and ferrets to also contract heartworms.
Heartworms are a parasitic worm that live inside your pet’s body, deriving their nutrition directly from her blood at the expense of her health. Each heartworm can grow up to a foot in length and once mature, is capable of reproducing. Since heartworms can live up to 7 years and reproduce around every six months, the numbers of them living in your pet can grow dramatically.
Heartworms are contracted via a bite from an infected mosquito. When the mosquito bites an animal infected with heartworms, it takes some immature heartworm cells into its mouth. These are then passed on to the next host that it bites, entering the hosts bloodstream and making their way to the heart, lungs and blood vessels where they mature into adults.
Previously, heartworms were thought to only present a serious risk to animals living in the south since warmer weather enables mosquitos to thrive. However, since there are more than 30 species of mosquito that can transmit heartworms and mosquitos can be found all across the country, even in colder climates, all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets are considered to be at equal risk.
There are a range of different symptoms that could indicate that your pet is suffering from a heartworm infection. Some of the most common signs to look out for include:
If you suspect that your pet may have heartworms, it is crucial that you get her checked out by your veterinarian in Jacksonville, FL as soon as possible. There are a number of tests that can check for the presence of both adult heartworms and microfilaria which are immature worms.
Heartworms are extremely dangerous because they live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of your pet. As they reproduce, their numbers increase, causing the flow of blood to be compromised and eventually blocked. This leads to irreparable damage to her organs and eventually can result in organ failure and death. Heartworm infections that are left untreated are nearly always deadly.
All veterinarians strongly advocate that pets are protected from heartworms and there are a variety of different products available that can do this. They include tablets and spot-on treatments that must be administered monthly, and an injection that must be administered every six months. Your vet will be able to help you find the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
Absolutely, yes! Monthly preventatives are only effective for one month at a time. If you are late administering a dose or you skip a dose altogether, your pet could be at risk of developing heartworms. It is important that you stick to the prescribed schedule and do not deviate from it in any way.
Again, a resounding YES! Mosquitos can live all year round and so can the threat they present to your pet. As such, she should be protected from the risk of heartworms 24/7 365 days a year.
Fortunately, heartworms can be treated with relative success, although depending on how badly affected your pet is, she may have some lasting health problems from her ordeal. Treatment usually involves admitting your pet to hospital for an overnight visit, and then a couple of other subsequent appointments. Since there are some risks associated with heartworm treatment, your pet will need to be closely monitored throughout the treatment and you should follow the advice given to you by your vet.
If you have more questions about heartworms, our dedicated vets in Jacksonville, FL would be happy to answer them. Please call us Herschel Animal Clinic at 904-204-1788 today.