When it comes to our pets, we do everything we can to keep them healthy – from regular vet visits to exercise and healthy foods. It’s what we do to show our love!

But dogs, cats, and ferrets have a special consideration that pet owners need to be aware of – and that’s heartworm.

This potentially fate disease can strike these pets – but when you’re aware and taking proper precautions, you can often avoid it all together.

Here’s what you should know about heartworm when it comes to your fur babies!

 

What is heartworm?

Heartworm is just what it sounds like – worms that live in the heart, lungs, and other blood vessels of cats, dogs, and ferrets. (Heartworms are also found in other mammals such as wolves, foxes, and coyotes.)

 

These heartworms can be about 12 inches in length and cause lung disease, heart failure and can do damage to other vital organs.

 

How do pets get heartworms?

Most often, the worms come from the bite of a mosquito. When a mosquito bites your dog, cat, or ferret, your pet becomes the host for the worms. The worms mature in your pet, then mate and reproduce.

 

The process to go from larvae to mature heartworm takes about 6-7 months – and while not contagious – it can be devastating for pets.

 

How do I know if my pet has heartworms?

Your vet can do a simple blood test to check for heartworms. In fact, they probably do it as part of your regular vet checkups.

 

What are the symptoms if my pet tests positive?

Your pet may show no symptoms at all – at first. Then, they may develop a cough, seem tired, have trouble breathing, or develop Caval syndrome, which prevents blood from flowing back to the heart.

 

Is treatment available?
Yes, your vet can help treat heartworms with drugs, but there is the potential that these drugs can be toxic to your pet or cause serious complications. (There is no treatment available for ferrets at this time.)

 

What can I do to prevent heartworms?

Your vet will most likely recommend a heartworm prevention treatment. Most often, these are topical liquids or an oral tablet. When you regularly give your pets these treatments, you can go a long way to prevent this terrible disease.

Do you have more questions about heartworms? Then be sure to talk to your veterinarian! They’re the experts in your pet’s health – and they’ll be happy to answer all of your questions as you work to keep your furry family member healthy.

 

References:

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/keep-worms-out-your-pets-heart-facts-about-heartworm-disease

https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/heartworms-in-dogs-facts-and-myths#1

https://wagwalking.com/condition/caval-syndrome