Why Heartworm Testing is Important to Your Pet’s Health
Among all the incredible benefits that come with routine pet wellness exams, heartworm testing is at the top of the list. This common practice gives us insight into whether your pet’s parasite prevention is up to par and provides us the opportunity to make any necessary changes.
A Closer Look
Heartworm disease can be very serious for pets who contract it and fatal if left alone. The disease affects dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and even sea lions.
Dogs are considered natural hosts for heartworms that are able to grow, mature, and produce offspring that will do the same. An infected dog can have hundreds of worms living inside them.
Cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, but they can still contract the disease. Most worms will not grow into adults, but younger worms can cause a secondary life-threatening disease called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).
Heartworm disease is spread to animals via mosquito bites. Once bitten, microscopic worms migrate from the bloodstream to the heart where they grow into adults.
Most animals do not display any immediate symptoms of the disease. In fact, it can take months for the heartworms to cause clinical signs, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of stamina
By this time, the worms are large enough to block blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the lungs; they can also obstruct vital valves in the heart.
On the Calendar
Your preference may be a pill every month, topical medication, or a shot every 6 months. If your pet does get a bite from an infected mosquito, the medicine will kill the worms before they grow into adults, eliminating the risk of disease and inflammation.
Once diagnosed, treatment involves killing the worms. Once they die, they might stay in the heart, lungs, or blood vessels and cause dangerous inflammation. Swelling and fluid can build up and sometimes threaten an animal’s life.
If your pet isn’t showing any signs and you’ve kept up with their preventive schedule, why should you bother with heartworm testing?
- Not all medication is 100% effective.
- Sometimes doses are missed, skipped, or not taken completely, leaving an animal vulnerable.
- If your pet does get a bite from an infected mosquito, their preventive will kill the worms before they mature into adults.
- Depending on the situation, animals can get bitten more than once from infected mosquitoes. A preventive medication may not be able to kill off all the growing worms, and an infection could occur.
When conducted every year, heartworm testing can detect the disease before an animal displays symptoms. Early diagnosis means a safer, less expensive, and more effective treatment – which makes for a healthier pet!