A dog with a sad gaze.

At Oroville Animal Health Center, we believe that preventive care is the cornerstone to overall health and wellness for your pet. Although heartworm disease is a serious medical concern for animals, it is also a very preventable condition. Keep reading to learn more about what heartworm actually is and how you can keep your pet safe from it:

Heartworm: The Basics

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called the Dirofilaria immitis, which can enter your pet’s blood through a mosquito bite. These worms attack the heart, lungs, and respiratory system of otherwise healthy animals. They are particualry dangerous to dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Dogs are called a “definitive host” for heartworms because the parasites can complete an entire lifecycle of reaching adulthood, mating, and even reproducing inside a canine host. These worms can live inside of a dog for 5-7 years, and the females can grow up to 12 inches in length. 

If you see any of the following symptoms, you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian to check for heartworm:

  • Cough
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme lethargy

There is a medication that can treat heartworm in dogs, but it is imperative to get treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, heartworm disease in dogs can be fatal.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Cats are also susceptible to mosquito bites that can cause a heartworm infection, but their bodies do not provide the ideal hosting environment that the canine system does. Because of this, heartworms can typically only live 2-4 years inside of a cat and they do not grow as long. 

Unfortunately, cats do not usually display typical symptoms of heartworm disease and can experience sudden death from it. The following symptoms could all be signs of heartworm disease in cat. If you notice any, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian:

  • Vomiting 
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing

There is currently no FDA-approved drug to treat heartworm in cats.

Preventing Heartworm is the Best Treatment

Heartworm preventives can help you keep your pets safe from this uncomfortable disease. Your veterinarian can prescribe a topical or oral monthly preventive that give your pets a barrier of safety against heartworms and the health issues they bring. Talk to your vet about heartworm preventives at your next wellness visit to keep your dog and cat healthy and happy even during mosquito season.

From heartworm prevention to dental care and pain management, we have a well-rounded selection of veterinary services to keep your pets in optimal health throughout their lives. To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment for your furry friend, please call (530) 533-7513.