What is lurking inside your pet?
May 6, 2014

What Is Lurking Inside Your Pet?

There are some diseases that are completely preventable. One example of this is smallpox, which was eradicated in the United States back in the 70’s. Our pets are also at risk for a disease that is completely preventable. When this disease strikes, it is often an expensive and difficult process to bring an animal to full recovery, or it is simply too late. Pet owners may not be informed about the dangers or the prevention for this potentially deadly disease: heartworms.

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic roundworm getting into the blood stream of an animal and maturing in the pulmonary arteries or the lungs. Young heartworms may live in the blood stream of an animal, but they begin maturing once a mosquito bites the animal. This mosquito is infected with the young heartworms and they begin the maturation process. Once this infected mosquito bites another animal, the heartworm disease will begin to cause its damage and can be spread to every animal the mosquito bites.

Heartworm disease may not show any symptoms until it is too late for the animal to be saved. Some common symptoms in both cats and dogs include lethargy and weight loss. Dogs may also exhibit an occasional cough. Treatment for heartworm disease is very costly in dogs, and the recovery for animals could take months. Although cats are less susceptible to getting heartworms, they don’t have an approved medical treatment for heartworm disease, so it is imperative that prevention measures be taken with feline friends.

Cats, however, can naturally fight the disease sometimes. One major complication that can occur after the worms die in both cats and dogs is a blockage of the bloodstream from the dead worms. Veterinarians suggest limiting exercise for the animals while healing to decrease this risk.

The heartworm disease is more prevalent in some areas of the country because the mosquitos which transmit the disease thrive in warm humid climates. The area with the most reported cases is in southeastern United States, especially along the Mississippi Basin. All 50 states of the country, except Alaska have had cases of heartworm disease. There are several preventative measures for heartworm disease including Heartgard. Most preventative medicines come in the form of a daily or monthly tablet. There are also six-month injections available. Animals should also be routinely screened through blood tests for the disease to ensure early treatment in the event they are found positive for the disease.

Animals provide many families with unconditional love, and it is important that if you are considering getting a pet that you invest fully and completely in its health. All too often people are uninformed of what it takes to care for an animal. Heartworm disease is so easily prevented, and prevention is inexpensive in comparison with the cost of trying to treat the disease. These costs could be financial or emotional including medical bills or the ultimate loss of the animal. Having a pet is a full-time commitment, and pet owners should know what could threaten the livelihood of their furry friends.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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