Heartworm

What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are roundworms that, as the name suggests, live in the heart and also the lungs of mammals. They begin here as a form of microfilaria which once in the circulatory system of the mammal are spread to others by mosquitoes.

How do I know if my pet has heartworms?

Dogs with heartworms will typically have a cough that is especially noted after exercise. They may also become listless, lose weight and cough up phlegm that may contain blood.
Cats with heartworms may have asthma-like symptoms. Symptoms alone, however, are not enough to determine whether you pet is infected or not. If heartworm is suspected, your veterinarian will draw a blood sample from your pet and run one or two tests to establish whether this is the case or not.

How are Heartworms prevented?

 Your veterinarian can prescribe a preventive designed specifically for the weight of your animal. Depending on the part of the country in which you live, your veterinarian may prescribe year round preventive or may recommend preventive only between the first thaw and the last freeze of the year. Dogs and cats on a preventive should be tested annually. You can minimize mosquito populations by ensuring your property is well drained and cleared of stagnant water.

How is Heartworm infection treated?

After the dog is diagnosed as heartworm positive, your veterinarian will typically take a chest x-ray to determine the severity of the infection. The severity will determine the course treatment. Your dog will then be admitted into the hospital to have the heartworm treatment medication administered.

If after 4 months an antigen test is negative, your dog is assumed to be free of worms. Dogs that are infected can be safely put on a preventive to prevent additional infection.

Geriatrics

When it comes to the aging process, many similarities exist between humans and our pets.  How many times have you seen a scruffy, gray-muzzled dog shuffling slowly beside her equally gray-haired owner, or a rickety old cat curled up in the lap of his equally rickety owner? The "golden years" with our pets are very special ones and paying attention to few important details will ensure that our faithful companions will continue to enjoy a high quality life.

There is no definitive age that is considered old or geriatric for dogs and cats. The aging process is dependent upon many factors including breed and other genetic factors, nutrition and lifestyle.  In general, animals approaching 9-10 years of age begin to experience changes we typically associate with aging.

Your geriatric pets may begin to exhibit changes in their hair coat, sometimes appearing "scruffy."  Older cats are particularly notorious for "relaxing" the good grooming habits they had when younger. To prevent fur mats from developing in the older pet and to keep the natural oils spread throughout the coat, brush them often and gently, remembering that as skin ages, it looses its elasticity and becomes more fragile. Your pet will appreciate the special attention.

As pets age, their metabolism changes and the demand for energy and calories often decreases. Older pets may not show the same enthusiasm for their food as they did when younger. A "Senior" or "Geriatric" diet may be helpful or recommended.  The nutrient profile of these diets takes into account the body's changing demand for protein, minerals, fats and calories. Good palatability is also addressed as older pets may lose some taste sensation.

Good routine health examinations and care is essential for the older pet. It is important to appreciate that a single year in your pet's life is the equivalent of 7-10 years for a person. Regular examinations can help uncover potential problems.  Good dental care is a must. Keep your pet's teeth clean and plaque-free by brushing at home.  Regular dental care at the hospital may be necessary if your pet suffers from periodontal problems.  Plaque-encrusted teeth are not only painful to your pet's aging gums, but are a source for bacteria which can enter the blood stream and be carried throughout the body, damaging vital organs like the heart and kidneys. It is also important to keep your pet's water bowls clean and filled with plenty of fresh water.

Fortunately, dogs and cats are seldom predisposed to some of the common human vascular disorders such as heart attack or stroke. It is fairly common, however, for them to suffer from heart rhythm disturbances and heart murmurs. It is important that your aging pet's cardiac health be evaluated regularly.

Given the accelerated rate at which pets age, it is very important that he or she see the veterinarian at least annually for a well-pet check-up. Our goal is to keep your pet healthy throughout its life. If you have any questions or concerns about your "senior" friend...just ask.

Currently, there is not an approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats. They are typically treated symptomatically and put on preventive to prevent additional infections.