Heartworm disease is a very serious disease that affects both cats and dogs. If heartworms are left untreated, the disease can be fatal. The vector for the disease are infected mosquitoes, however, the disease affects cats slightly differently than dogs. In cats, the disease is more commonly referred to as H.A.R.D (Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease). Unlike dogs which can be infected with up to several hundred heartworms, cats typically are infected with 1-4. Immature heartworms pass through vessels of the heart where most of them die causing sudden inflammation. The surviving heartworms travel to the lungs and mature causing acute inflammation. The adult heartworms in cats can live 1-2 years. Heartworm disease in cats can be difficult to diagnose, therefore it is recommended that your cat stay on year round heartworm prevention.
Heartworm disease in dogs is more easily diagnosed. However, the disease is just as serious and just as fatal if left untreated. Heartworms in dogs differ in cats in that they spend the majority of their adult life in the right side of the heart and in the major blood vessels that connect the heart to the lungs. Heartworms can affect dogs in a number of ways. Typically, dogs show no distinctive signs of heartworm disease, therefore it is highly recommended to have your dog tested annually for heartworm disease. The most common sign of infection is a cough. Heartworms can block major vessels resulting in a fluid accumulation in the abdomen called ascites. In rare cases, some dogs may experience sudden death due to heart failure from the large number of worms that a dog may be infected with.
The most effective and economical way to protect your pet from heartworm disease is to have an annual screening done on your animal for the disease, and keep your pet on a once monthly topical or chewable heartworm preventative.
Heartworms disease is transmitted through mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it ingests very small heartworm larvae called microfilariae. That mosquito then becomes the means of transfer or vector for the disease. When the infected mosquito bites another animal, the heartworm larvae enter the blood stream of the animal and mature.