Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal parasitic disease that affects pets, particularly dogs and cats. It is caused by the transmission of heartworm larvae through mosquito bites. The larvae then mature and develop into adult worms, primarily residing in the heart and lungs of the infected animal. If left untreated, heartworm disease can be life-threatening for pets. Prevention through regular veterinary care and the use of preventive medications is essential to protect pets from heartworm infection.
Symptoms of heartworm disease may not be apparent until the disease is advanced. In dogs, signs can include a mild persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss, and fatigue after moderate activity. In severe cases, dogs can develop a pot-bellied appearance due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Cats may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. In some cases, the first sign in a cat may be sudden collapse or death.
Treatment for heartworm disease can be risky and expensive, and there is no treatment available for cats. Therefore, prevention is the best approach. There are various heartworm preventive medications available which vary depending on animal type (i.e. cat or dog). These medications are highly effective, and when given regularly, they can completely prevent heartworm disease. Regular testing for heartworm infection is also important, even for pets on preventive medication.
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