Pet Heart Health and Heartworms

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 10:03 AM.

The heart is a complex organ and it is important for pet owners to be aware of the diseases it can develop.

Pet owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease so that they can provide their pet with the best possible care.

“Humid spring and summer days may cause dogs and cats to suffer more from mosquito bites that can lead to heartworm disease,” said Dr. Sonya Gordon, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Dogs have a high risk of heartworm infection, but cats are also susceptible to the disease.”

Pets become infected when a heartworm-infested mosquito bites the animal, transmitting the heartworm larvae into the tissue of the pet. As the larvae develop they travel through the tissue and ultimately settle in the blood vessels of the lungs, which leads to the development of heartworm disease.

“Heartworms should really be called lungworms because the adult worm typically lives in the blood vessels of the lungs, not the heart,” said Gordon. “If left untreated, heartworms can lead to difficulty with breathing and even result in a clog of the right heart causing Caval Syndrome, which is when blood is prevented from traveling through the right side of the heart and causes the pet’s abdomen to fill with fluid among other problems.”

Signs of heartworm disease can include coughing, difficulty breathing, fainting, weight loss, and an overall decreased activity level. A blood test from your local veterinarian can determine if your pets have the disease.

While treatment for heartworm disease is possible, it is frequently much more expensive and hazardous than preventative medication.



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