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Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is present in all 50 states. It is a serious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It only takes one bite one time for an infected mosquito to transmit heartworm disease.

In North Carolina, one in 74 dogs and one in 150 cats will test positive. Heartworm disease is a year-round problem in North Carolina.

Can I tell if my dog or cat has heartworms?
Dogs and cats with heartworm disease may initially have no symptoms at all. In dogs, the larval heartworms migrate through the blood stream and turn into adult heartworms in the heart, causing heart failure. Possible symptoms (especially later in the disease) in dogs include coughing, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing and sudden death.

In cats, the symptoms are not related to the presence of the heartworms themselves but to the death of the heartworms that occurs 1 to 2 years after infection. Indoor cats are even at risk, as 30 percent of heartworm cases in cats occur in totally indoor cats. Cats generally have respiratory symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing, which often is mistaken as asthma. Intermittent vomiting is also a common symptom in cats. Unfortunately, sudden death is a very common symptom of heartworm disease in cats.

How can I keep my dog or cat protected from heartworms?
Year-round heartworm protection is essential to prevent heartworm disease in both dogs and cats. Heartworm disease has been proven to occur in North Carolina every month of the year. Due to the propensity for lapses in heartworm protection, resistance to heartworm protection is beginning to occur. Currently, heartworm protections are not even considered 100 percent effective until used monthly for 3 months in a row.

You can get heartworm preventative directly through our online pharmacy: https://ah-bc.vetsfirstchoice.com/.

The good news is that there are many options for heartworm protection. Heartworm protection comes in oral soft chews, topical liquids, and 6-month injections. Heartworm protection is even combined with intestinal parasite control and flea protection. Monthly heartworm protection can be shipped to your house on the same date every month to serve as an easy reminder to administer the preventative.

Should my dog or cat get a heartworm test?
Annual testing for heartworm disease is extremely important for dogs. There are heartworms that have developed some resistance to heartworm protection. It only takes missing one dosage of heartworm protection, giving one dosage late, or the pet vomiting up (or rubbing off) one dosage of heartworm protection for an infection to occur.

The early diagnosis of heartworm disease is important to prevent damage to the heart, lungs, and great vessels. Heartworm testing can be easily combined with wellness blood work for early detection of a variety of medical conditions.