The last worm to discuss is the Granddaddy of the all…the infamous heartworm. This guys are tricky and can be confusing on a detailed level, so we’ll keep this talk generalized.
Heartworm larva are ingested by female mosquitoes and develop into mature larva which are then passed on to naïve animals. Once a mosquito infects an animal, it takes roughly 6-7 months before the larva develop into adults. Dogs and cats are both susceptible to infection. Adult worms can live for 5-7 years in dogs and 2-4 years in cats. Pets may have heartworms without showing clinical signs of illness. When clinical signs are present, they can range from coughing, exercise intolerance, weight loss, difficulty breathing, heart failure, acute death, and neurological signs. Currently 1 in 29 dogs in Nash County are positive for heartworms.
Prevention is always best and can be very affordable with monthly products. Treatment is typically pricey and requires several months of different medications. If left untreated, pets can develop irreversible heart and lung changes. There is evidence of failures in preventatives which is one of the reasons yearly testing is recommended by the American Heartworm Society. Overall, pets should be treated yearly and maintained year-round with preventatives. Thanks, and have a happy week.
Dr. Michael Hicks
Hicks Animal Clinic