Enjoying a close, loving relationship with your pet begins with understanding their basic needs and desires in order for them to live a healthy, happy life. Providing them with proper diet and exercise may be at the forefront of this understanding, but close behind is knowing what can make them ill and how they can be effectively protected. This includes understanding the dangers of heartworm.

About Heartworm

Heartworms are foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and occasionally even humans. They are transmitted from one animal to another through the bite of infected mosquitoes, and typically spend their adult lives in the right side of the heart, as well as in the blood vessels that connect the heart to the lungs, where they cause severe lung disease, heart failure and organ damage. They obstruct chambers in the heart, causing the right pumping chamber and the pulmonary artery to become enlarged. Sometimes heartworms can also block the vena cava, causing the liver to become enlarged and damaged. Even when heartworms die they often obstruct smaller vessels in the lungs and cause pulmonary embolisms. Needless to say, this is a very serious and sometimes even potentially fatal disease that pet owners seek to guard against.

Animals suffering from heartworm disease may have no signs at all, very little signs, or very obvious signs. Some of the most common signs of heartworm disease include a cough, lack of energy, decreased appetite, weight loss and general listlessness. In some severe cases, a heartworm-infected animal may accumulate fluid in their abdomen which causes stomach distension.

It is estimated that thousands of dogs die each year as a result of heartworm-related complications–with a single bite from an infected mosquito being all it takes to contract the disease. Luckily, it is almost completely preventable.

Protecting Your Pet

Protecting your pet from heartworm disease is usually as simple as administering a heartworm preventative, such as Heartgard, Tri-Heart, Iverhart Max, Sentinel, Revolution, Advantage, and Trifexis. It is highly recommended that you have your veterinarian test your pet for heartworms prior to administering any type of heartworm preventative medication, so as to avoid possible complications. There are also products that can be sprayed directly onto your pet’s coat in an effort to deter mosquitoes, which works in preventing infected bites from occurring in the first place. Whichever option is chosen, it is important to take action in order to prevent your pet from this potentially fatal disease.