Heartworm: A Serious Threat to Louisville Pets
Heartworm is a serious, often fatal parasitic condition that affects both dogs and cats. This mosquito-borne parasite can severely impair your pet’s heart and lung function, even though it may not present outward symptoms for years. By the time you know your pet has heartworm, treatment may be difficult or impossible. That’s why heartworm prevention is so important for your Louisville, Kentucky pet — and our veterinarian can provide that protection here at Audubon Animal Medical Center.
Heartworm is particularly prevalent in the Eastern United States, putting your Louisville, Kentucky pet at a higher risk than animals in some other parts of the nation. Heartworms begin their lives as microfilariae inside an already-infected mammal. Mosquitos that extract blood from the animal ingest the microfilariae, which then develop into larvae inside the insect’s body. The next time the mosquito bites another mammal, the larvae are injected into the bloodstream. Here they mature into long, thin worms that seek out the heart and lungs of the animal as their new home. Eventually, the worms overrun these organs so completely that normal cardiopulmonary function becomes impossible, killing the host animal.
Since heartworm infestation can progress extremely slowly, you may not even know that your pet is ill. Symptoms, when they finally arrive, may include lack of energy, intolerance for exercise, weight loss and coughing. By this point, unfortunately, the heartworm infestation may be too advanced for our veterinarian to help your Louisville, Kentucky pet. Earlier stages of canine heartworm infestation can be treated, but the process may involve considerable effort and expense. Cats are less lucky. While felines are able to expel heartworms on their own, their bodies can go into shock in reaction to the worms exiting the body — a potentially fatal outcome.
Our Veterinarian Can Help You Protect Your Pet
As you might imagine, prevention is your most effective weapon against heartworm. Our veterinarian can test your puppy or kitten for heartworm during his earliest wellness evaluations and then place your pet on a program of preventative medication to keep heartworms from invading. Depending on your dog or cat’s specific needs, our veterinarian may recommend daily or monthly oral medications. Monthly topical applications are also a possibility, and dogs have the additional option of an injectable medication administered at six-month intervals for maximum convenience. These medications prevent larval worms from maturing and taking up residence in the vital organs. It is vitally important that you keep up the recommended dosage schedule, because even a tiny window of vulnerability could be enough to create a serious case of heartworm in your pet.
If your dog already has heartworm, our Louisville, Kentucky veterinarian will need to administer treatment as soon as possible. Medications known as adulticides focus on killing the adult heartworms over a period of months. Once your pet has recovered, we can put him on preventative medication. Contact Audubon Animal Medical Center in Louisville to learn more.