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At East Valley Animal Hospital (serving Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa), pet health and preventative care is our passion. One aspect of preventative care is making your pet’s annual or biannual wellness checkup, where they are tested for heartworm disease. Since April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, we’d like to share some helpful information that can ensure your pet’s health and lower their risk of contracting heartworm disease.

What is Heartworm Disease?

First of all, let’s answer the question: “What exactly is heartworm disease?” According to the American Heartworm Society, “Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Heartworms are primarily spread by mosquitoes. Essentially, when a mosquito feeds from an infected animal and then bites your dog, cat, or other pet, they spread heartworm larvae. Once these larvae find a host, they take about 6 months to mature into adult heartworms. If the heartworms reach the adult stage, they can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats.

Signs of Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease will manifest differently in cats and dogs. Since it takes 6 months for heartworm larvae to mature into adult heartworms, in the early stages you might not see many signs or symptoms of infection. As the disease progresses signs in dogs may include a mild persistent cough, fatigue after light exercise, decreased appetite, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. Signs in cats may consist of coughing, asthma-like attacks, vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. If you notice any of these symptoms, bring your pet to see us at East Valley Animal Hospital for labs and screening.

Steps To Prevention

The best form of pet health and prevention is to have your four-legged friend tested annually for heartworm disease and to give your cat or dog a monthly heartworm prevention medicine. Another option for dogs is to give them a heartworm prevention shot that will protect them for up to 6 months.

At East Valley Animal Hospital, we love our own pets. You can be sure we’ll do everything we can to treat your precious pup or tabby with the same intentional care we give our own animals. We’ll see that they’re well taken care of with the greatest compassion, using the latest technology available. Call us and schedule an appointment today (480-568-2462), to keep your pet’s heartworm treatments up to date!

Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst (4/7/2018)