Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs and Cats.

April 10, 2019
Heartworm symptoms are nasty.

Heartworm Symptoms

Pets don’t often show any symptoms of heartworms until the disease has progressed. Signs in dogs and cats differ.

Dog Symptoms:

  1. A mild persistent cough
  2. Reluctance to exercise
  3. Fatigue after moderate activity
  4. Decreased appetite and weight loss.
  5. Heartworm disease can cause death in both cats and dogs

Cat Symptoms:

  1. Coughing
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Vomiting
  4. Lethargy
  5. Sudden death with no warning signs

Heartworms Pick Up in the Warmer Months

Spring and summer bring long days perfect for lots of outdoor playtime for you and your pet. In Texas, such warm weather also brings mosquitos – and an elevated risk of heartworms. In fact, Texas has the 4th highest heartworm rate in the country behind only Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. 

Heartworms Are Too Important to Ignore

Heartworms are the most important parasites affecting cats and dogs. The disease that heartworms cause is deadly but can easily be prevented. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bite year-round and it only takes one bite for infection to spread.

All cats and dogs are at risk and should be on a heartworm prevention product every 30 days year-round even if they are indoors only (25 percent of cats that have tested positive were reported to be indoor only). Other mammals including coyotes, wolves, foxes, and even sea lions are affected by heartworms. Ferrets are also at risk and an FDA approved prevention product is even available for them! Humans generally aren’t considered to be at risk, but it does happen, though rarely. 

Prevention and Testing 

Monthly heartworm prevention products are given every 30 days and they kill off some of the larval stages of the heartworms so that they cannot mature into adult worms. They do NOT kill the adult worms. Adult heartworm therapy requires a series of 3 injections of an arsenic-based compound, typically costs $1,000 or more for a medium-sized dog, takes several months and requires 8 weeks of cage rest. There are NO approved treatments options at all for cats with heartworm disease. But this is all preventable using monthly products. 

The test that is used to detect heartworms in dogs requires only 3 drops of blood and takes just 8 minutes (ReadiVet can perform this test in your home). The test looks for a protein that the adult female worm produces. This protein is detectable starting 5-7 months after infection. 

Testing in cats is much more difficult and if a cat has heartworms, the test may not show that they do. Even if a cat is indoor only, mosquitos still bite them. In fact, 25 percent of cats that have tested positive for heartworms were reported to live indoor only. Unfortunately, the first sign of this disease in cats can be sudden death. 

Heartworms Are on the Rise Across the Board

You should be aware that heartworm rates are on the rise – by almost 22 percent between 2013 and 2016. This emphasizes the importance of heartworm testing and using preventative products more than ever.

Heartworm prevention products are available only through a veterinarian and are not available in pet stores. Check out this link to the American Heartworm Society’s website for more information. https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources.  

Contact Us With Any Questions or Concerns

Heartworms are scary. If your pet is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian. Reach out at info@readivet.com or book an appointment at ReadiVet.com if you have any questions or concerns. 

About ReadiVet

Based in Uptown Dallas, ReadiVet provides veterinary care in your home without charging more than a traditional clinic. After booking an appointment, ReadiVet will send one of its mobile veterinarians to you to provide wellness care like vaccines or sick care for your unwell pet.

Ben Clemmett, DVM
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