When they bite, mosquitoes can transmit diseases including heartworm infection. Once infected, heartworm disease can wreak havoc on your dog, cat or ferret. These parasites can severely and sometimes fatally damage the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some pets may not show any signs of infection until the disease is quite advanced so prevention of this devastating disease is crucial. This is especially important in Florida as we have plenty of mosquitoes present year-round to transmit heartworms to your pet(s).
In dogs, signs of heartworm disease can include coughing, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen (caused by fluid accumulation from heart failure). Canine heartworm infection can also lead to life-threatening complications including acute vena cava syndrome or an episode of thromboembolism which can lead to collapse and death without prompt intervention. The earlier heartworm disease is detected in your dog the more successfully it can be treated so annual heartworm testing is imperative.
Although many people are not aware of the fact, cats and ferrets, like dogs, are susceptible to heartworm infection. Cats and ferrets can suffer from a syndrome referred to as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). The symptoms of HARD can be subtle and mimic those of asthma or allergic bronchitis, but more severe signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or difficult breathing, wheezing, and panting can also occur. Other symptoms of feline heartworm disease include coughing, vomiting (typically unrelated to eating), and loss of appetite and/or weight. Unfortunately, sudden death is sometimes the first indication that a cat has been suffering from heartworms. Further complicating things, heartworm infection is more difficult to diagnose in cats than it is in dogs.
Treatment for heartworm infection is far more expensive than prevention. In addition, heartworm treatment can be painful and sometimes fatal to your dog. Unfortunately, there is no approved treatment for heartworms in cats or ferrets and even one or two adult heartworms can cause serious problems or death in these animals. For these reasons we recommend that almost all dogs, cats and ferrets in our area receive regular heartworm prevention.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect your dog, cat or ferret from heartworms and that is by administering monthly heartworm preventives. Most heartworm medications also protect your pet against other parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, ear mites, fleas, and ticks. There are a number of different heartworms preventions on the market, all of which are available by prescription only. We can discuss the various preventions with you and recommend the best product for your pet.