April showers bring May flowers and mosquitos! That’s right, the beautiful springtime is also the return of the dreaded mosquito. For many, this is all about purchasing bug spray, but don’t leave your pets unprotected! In April, we recognize National Heartworm Awareness Month to bring recognition to pet parents of the serious threat mosquito bites can pose to your pets. If they aren’t already, your furry friend needs to start taking precautionary heartworm medication to protect them from mosquito bites.
Heartworm starts with a tiny mosquito acting as a host for a threadlike, roundworm parasite. The parasite lives in the mosquito’s salivary glands and is transferred to your dog or cat when s/he is bitten by the mosquito host. The parasite travels to the heart or lungs of it’s new host and multiplies in size. These adult worms often produce offspring around 6 months after the original bite can be detected in your dog or cat’s blood. Because of this, symptoms may not even appear until a few months after your dog or cat was bitten.
The following is a list of the 7 most common symptoms that may signify heartworm:
Because the parasites often enter the lungs and multiply around the veins, coughing can sometimes be a symptom of heartworm.
2. Fatigue or Inactivity:
If you notice that your pet has suddenly become less active than usual, call your vet. Heartworm weakens its host and may be the cause of this sudden inactivity.
3. Loss of Appetite or Weight Loss:
If your pet is no longer interested in food, it may be because the parasite is turning eating into a chore for your dog or cat.
4. Rapid or Difficult Breathing:
Along with coughing, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing can be symptoms that the parasite has infected your pet’s lungs.
5. Bulging Chest:
A bulging chest can appear due to weight loss or fluid build up caused by the heartworm.
6. Allergic Reaction:
This symptom is most common in cats, but can sometimes appear in dogs.
Heartworms often invade the heart and obstruct blood flow. This may cause your pet to collapse. If this happens, it is important to take your pet to the vet immediately. If the heartworm is affecting blood flow, death is a very possible result.
While dogs are more at risk, heartworms also affect cats. It is less common, but unfortunately cats are susceptible and have a much lower chance of recovery. Even indoor cats need protection, as mosquitos can easily fly into your home unannounced.
All pet owners should speak with their vet regarding the proper medication and dosage to prevent heartworm. Heartworm medication generally goes by the pets weight and is specific to the breed. Do not use heartworm medication intended for dogs on your cat, as this can cause a severe and sometimes fatal reaction.
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