Posts in Category: Fleas Ticks & Heartworm
Heartworm disease is one of the most serious diseases that can affect many mammal species, including dogs and cats. When an animal is diagnosed with heartworms, it means that they literally have worms living in their body, which mostly attack the heart and lungs and even sometimes the blood vessels. Over time, heartworms will cause damage to all of their organs and have the ability to eventually cause heart failure, making this a potentially fatal disease.
Fortunately, heartworm disease is very preventable. The challenge for pet owners is to use heartworm preventatives on their pet consistently. Heartworm preventatives on the market have a track record of virtually 100% protection if administered regularly with no gaps.
If you are a dog owner, chances are good that you know about heartworm disease. Chances are also good that you give your dog a monthly heartworm preventive, and that your dog is tested annually to make sure they are heartworm free. However, you may not know that your cat is also at risk.
Although the chances of your cat contracting heartworm is less than it is for your dog, it has been reported that cats in all 50 states are infected with heartworm. In fact, it has also been reported that 10-14% of all shelter cats are infected with heartworm.
As we become more aware of the prevalence of heartworm disease in cats, Oakland Veterinary Referral Services will take the opportunity to discuss the causes, signs, and prevention of heartworm disease in our feline friends.
Dogs and cats are susceptible to a number of internal and external parasites, some of which are capable of being passed to humans. Year-round, monthly parasite prevention is not only a vital component of your pet’s overall health and wellbeing, it’s important for your family’s health as well.
Pet Parasite Prevention
Parasites are more than just annoying. Many carry pathogens that can put our pets at risk for dangerous illnesses. By following your veterinarian’s recommendations for monthly parasite preventive medications, you will be protecting your pet from these tiny foes: Continue…
We are now deep into summer and we hope that you and your pets have been enjoying the great outdoors. If you have been outside much, though, you know how much of a damper the sun and bugs can put on your good time. Our four-legged family members are no different in this regard. Learn what you need to know about sunscreen and bug spray for your pets this summer season.
Sun Dangers for Pets
The sunshine holds lots of fun for people and pets alike, but we must always remember that its rays can be dangerous. Continue…
Ticks have been an increasing problem for people and their pets over the past few years. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, reported cases of Lyme disease have almost doubled in two years, with the western region of the state seeing the highest number of incidents. And, while the tick boom has created a worrisome outdoor environment for people, pet owners are also concerned about keeping their pets safe from ticks and the diseases they carry.
Pretty much everybody has heard of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. But did you know that there was another type of tick-borne disease that affects dogs called Anaplasmosis? Here is what you need to know:
- Anaplasmosis is becoming increasingly more common.
- The disease is sometimes called Ehrlichiosis.
- The deer tick is responsible for most the Anaplasmosis in the northeast and upper Midwest, which the black-legged tick is the culprit in the western United States.
- The bacteria transmitted by the tick attacks the white blood cells and spreads throughout the body, often affecting platelets witch interferes with blood clotting.
- Symptoms of infection can include fever, lethargy, and painful, swollen joints. Other less consistent signs are swollen lymph nodes, eye problems, or bleeding.
- Blood testing can confirm the disease.
- Most dogs can be successfully treated with a specific antibiotic, although they can relapse or become re-infected.
As if you needed another reason to use tick prevention! Be sure to protect your dog from exposure to Anaplasmosis.
Heartworms go through several cycles of maturation:
- Larvae are injected into the dog’s blood stream by a mosquito bite. These larvae travel to arteries within the lungs and become sexually productive adult worms.
- Adult worms produce “heartworm babies” which are ingested by mosquitoes after biting an infected dog.
- These babies go through another growth phase within the mosquito and the larvae are then injected back into another dog via a bite from the mosquito.
- Lather, rinse, repeat…
Clinical signs that are associated with heartworm disease are due to inflammation within the lungs. An intense inflammatory reaction causes lung disease and respiratory symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath). In advanced stages of the disease, the patient may become weak and have signs of respiratory distress.
Cats are not a part of the heartworm life cycle, but they can become infected. A cat may become ill after being infected with only one heartworm. A small number of worms may not cause symptoms in a dog, but the dog may serve as a reservoir of infection for other dogs.
Prevention (Human and Animal):
Owners can help decrease exposure to mosquitoes and limit their reproduction by removing any standing water on their property. Whenever possible, cover any open sources of water. Fish may help reduce the mosquito population around ponds.
Dark clothing attracts mosquitoes, so people should wear lighter colors. Mosquitoes are most active at night, so both you and your pets should avoid excessive outdoor activity after sundown. Whenever you are outdoors, wear mosquito repellent and check with your veterinarian for a pet-safe mosquito repellent for your dog or cat.
Other ways to minimize exposure to mosquitoes include using screens in your windows and doors and inspecting them to ensure there are no holes large enough for a mosquito to fit through. Avoid having your doors open any longer than necessary at night.
The most important preventative measure for your pet is a monthly oral preventative medication such as Hartguard. Ask your veterinarian which brand they recommend and be sure to keep your pet protected.
Medical management of heartworm infection is aimed at destroying the worms and treating any secondary complications that result from the infection. Some patients require medications to relieve inflammation within the lungs. To “kill” the adult worm, there is a specific agent that is injected. The third phase of therapy is to reduce the number of “heartworm babies” in the bloodstream. The medication used to eradicate adult worms cannot be used in cats. Heartworms have a shorter life span in cats, so the clinical signs are generally treated medically until the worm dies on its own. In very advanced cases in both dogs and cats, surgical extraction of the adult worms from the heart may be required.
If your pet is not yet on a heartworm preventative, be sure to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Heartworm is much easier to prevent than it is to treat. If you’re interested in learning more about veterinary cardiology, you can visit our cardiology page.