At this time of year, it is important we discuss heartworm disease. If you are relatively new to pet parenting, you may not have heard of heartworm disease before. Heartworm disease is caused by worms that develop and live in the heart, surrounding blood vessels, and lungs. This parasitic infestation mainly affects dogs, but some cats can also be known to become infected. Unfortunately, heartworm is a very serious medical problem and if left untreated, could cause permanent damage to the health of your pet, and eventually, death. The good news, thanks to veterinary medicine, is the disease is entirely preventable. This short guide will help you clarify what heartworm disease is , its symptoms, and why we recommend year round heartworm prevention.
Heartworm disease is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. While the risk of a bite from one is higher in the summer, mosquitoes are present all year round in many states. The mosquito deposits heartworm larvae near the bite wound, and these travel to the blood vessels where they can mature into adults. Once fully-grown, the worms can reproduce, continuing the lifecycle of the worm and allowing them to rapidly multiple in number.
Frustratingly, the symptoms of a heartworm infection are very hard to detect. In many instances, it can take six months or more for many symptoms to become apparent, and often by the time they do, many adult worms will already be present in your pet's system and will have caused damage to youpet's health. If a dog becomes infected, the adult heartworms can lead to both lung and heart disease due to the worms damaging the epithelium and plugging up major vessels and airways. Nethertheless, early identification is essential if you are to get your pet prompt life saving treatment.
Symptoms of heartworms include:
Fortunately, heartworm is a disease that can be treated. Modern veterinary medicine has produced a number of drugs capable of destroying heartworms at every stage of their lifecycle, meaning it is possible to eradicate the infection entirely. Here at Healthy Paws Veterinary Clinic, we recommend year round preventatives. Using preventatives will treat the infestation before it can compromise your pet's health.
- Many people will argue there is no point in giving heartworm prevention during the winter months when mosquitoes aren't around. However, we disagree as we've experienced some unseasonable warm winter months.
- Sticking to year round heartworm prevention doesn't allow people to forget about restarting it in the spring, or to have it pushed back to after the weather has already been warm.
- Heartworm prevention will continue to control against intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. We see a very high incidence of intestinal parasites in our area, especially with dog parks, doggie day cares, and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting. Plus, roundworms are very hardy organisms that won't die off even with a freeze. Both roundworms and hookworms are zoonotic diseases, meaning they can be passed from animals to humans. Children, especially are at risk of picking up roundworms or hookworms from the pet or the environment. Intestinal parasites can cause clinical signs in dogs as well, ranging from lose stool and a pot-belly to failure to gain weight and anemia from blood loss.
In conclusion, heartworm prevention is an important part of the wellness care for your pet. We are more than willing to discuss what is best for your pet at your next wellness visit.
Let’s be honest, most pet owners rarely take a peek into the mouths of their cat or dog, except for an occasional slobbery kiss or cuddle. They are unaware that bacteria constantly builds up within the crevices of pet’s teeth. Left untreated, poor oral health in pets can lead to many problems, including bad breath, tooth decay or tooth loss, gum disease, heart and kidney disease and much more. All of these problems can mean shortened life spans and an unhappy pet.
Some common signs of dental disease are:
Dogs and cats both need regular at-home and professional dental care to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Owners should consider visiting their vet for a full pet dental exam at least once a year to better understand how dental health affects overall health. Your vet will help create a suitable pet dental care plan which may include a dental cleaning.
During a dental cleaning, plaque and tartar are removed from a pet’s teeth, and the health of the entire mouth (tongue, gums, lips, and teeth) is assessed. A thorough dental cleaning can be accomplished only while the pet is under anesthesia. Anesthesia keeps your pet free of anxiety or pain during the dental procedure and allows your veterinarian to fully inspect the teeth and remove tartar from under the gums. After the teeth are cleaned, dental x-rays are performed to make sure the tooth roots are healthy and there is no hidden infection under your pet’s gumline that can be causing discomfort.
Like a walk outside or brushing their fur, teeth-brushing must be part of your daily routine at home. Ideally, it is best to train your pet when they are still young but if yours is past this point, don’t fret. It is still possible to do with some patience. Although dental chews are good, they should not substitute for a good teeth brushing. Purchase a special pet toothpaste and toothbrush; never use human toothpaste since pets cannot spit or rinse. The key to successful teeth brushing is to start your pet off slowly for your pet to adapt, be gentle and use positive reinforcement.
Dental care for pets is important, as dental disease is very common and can be quite debilitating. Untreated, it can decrease your pet’s quality of life and shorten his or her life expectancy by years. If you need help getting your pet’s dental health on the right track, don’t delay. It’s always a good time to give your pet’s oral health a fresh start!