Is Your Animal Safe From This Silent Killer?

Veterinary laboratory services

The best time to give your puppy an antigen heartworm test is six months before you see any symptoms, before the heartworms are fully mature. This offers you the greatest opportunity of treatment. Unfortunately, you most likely don’t know to administer a heartworm test kit until your pooch is listless and miserable and struggling to breath.

Heartworms are a terrible and potentially fatal parasite that attack cats and dogs through a simple mosquito bite. This is what you should know about it:

  • What are heartworms?

    Heartworms are a parasite that transfers to animals through mosquito bites. Once the parasite is in your pet’s body, they grow and mature inside their vital organs. Within approximately six or seven months, the heartworms reach adulthood and begin to wreak severe damage on their lungs, heart, and other vital organs. If left untreated, the heartworms will have a debilitating impact on the life of the animal, and eventually the organs will cease to operate altogether, killing the host animal. This usually takes five or six years, but they are extremely uncomfortable years.

  • What are the symptoms of heartworms?

    If your animal has been infected with heartworms, you’ll start noticing the symptoms around the time the parasites have reached maturity. These symptoms include:

    • Coughing and wheezing or rapid, shallow breathing
    • General lethargy and exhaustion. The animal just won’t act like themselves.
    • Bulging chest, from swelling of the heart.
    • Weightloss and refusal to eat.

    If your animal is experiencing these symptoms, you should take them to the vet to administer a heartworm test.

  • What can I expect if my animal tests positive for heartworms?

    If your dog tests positive for heartworms, you might be more than a little concerned. The good news is, with treatment, your animal will likely make a full recovery. Depending on the extent of damage that the heartworms have caused your animal’s organs, your veterinarian will probably start by addressing the physical ailments that have been caused by the parasite. This might involve a few nights stay at the pet hospital to stabilize their condition. Once the immediate need has been addressed, your vet will work on removing the parasite while causing little harm to the animal as possible. Your pet will likely receive a regular injection to kill the worms for approximately 90 days. At the end of the treatment time period, the animal will need to undergo another heartworm test to ensure that the parasite has been eradicated.

  • Can heartworms be prevented?
    Not only is heartworms preventable, it’s actually super easy to do. It is inexpensive and simple to guard your animals against them: the preventive treatment costs about $5 a month and takes maybe five minutes to administer. If you don’t think it’s worth the cost of preventing heartworms, consider the cost of the heartworm antigen test kits and treatment. The heartworm test kits alone cost more than a few months of preventative treatment, and if they test positive, the treatment costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500. Treatment is fairly invasive and will likely involve a hospital stay for your fur baby. The best treatment for heartworms is preventing it altogether.
  • What does the heartworm prevention do to protect an animal?

    The heartworm prevention medication doesn’t stop the animal from being bitten by a mosquito that is infected with heartworms. When a mosquito transfers heartworms to a new animal, they actually only transfer the larva of the parasite. Once the larva is injected into the host, it grows and multiplies and takes over. Heartworm prevention medicine works by making the animal’s blood stream too aggressive for the parasite to survive. The larva dies off before it is able to cause any negative symptoms to the animal.

  • Are humans at risk of heartworms?

    Humans get bitten by mosquitoes just like everything else. It is possible for a human to be bitten by a mosquito that is infected with heartworms. However, the mature heartworms can’t thrive in a human body like they can in a animal. In rare cases, the heartworms can infect the lungs and eyes of a human, but the symptoms aren’t as severe.

We want to hear from you! Do you have any other questions about heartworms that we didn’t cover in this post? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.