Parasites are more than a nuisance; they are also capable of spreading disease. This makes
and monthly parasite preventatives vital to your pet’s health.
Dogs and cats need all the protection they can get against fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites. At the Veterinary Medical Center of Easton, we offer the highest-quality parasite preventatives to prevent infestations and diseases spread by ticks, fleas, and other pests.
Below, we discuss in more detail the various types of parasites that can pose a threat to your pet.
Heartworm Disease FAQ
For an in-depth look at what heartworm disease is, how it affects pets, and more, check out our heartworm FAQ below.
A heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that travels through your pet’s bloodstream and eventually takes up residence in the blood vessels around the heart or lungs. In the early stages of infection, dogs and cats usually do not show clinical signs, so it can be difficult to tell if they are infected. Also, testing them for heartworm when the infection is still in its earliest stages may not yield a positive result. As the infection progresses, however, clinical signs will become apparent. These signs include loss of appetite, weight loss, and breathing difficulties. Ultimately, heartworm disease can end in heart failure.
Not every mosquito carries heartworm larvae, but mosquitoes are the primary vector for spreading the infection. When a mosquito bites an animal infected with heartworm, it takes in some of the larvae when it feeds on its host. Then, it moves onto another host and when it feeds again, the heartworm larvae enter the second host’s bloodstream. Feral cats, coyotes, and other wildlife can carry heartworm disease, so carrier mosquitoes will always be a problem. Fortunately, pets can’t spread heartworms to each other, but if your pet does have heartworms, they are technically a carrier and can be a source of infection for other pets nearby. This makes continuous heartworm prevention vital to your pet’s care.
In the early stages of heartworm disease, many dogs may not show symptoms. However, the longer the infection persists, the more likely you’ll see your pup develop symptoms, such as:
- Mild cough
- Reluctance to exercise
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Much like with dogs, symptoms of heartworm in cats can be severe or just barely noticeable. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Asthma attacks
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
Heartworm disease can be diagnosed in a couple of different ways in pets. First, it can be diagnosed through blood testing, the most common method. A tiny blood sample is taken from your pet and evaluated for a heartworm antigen that stimulates a response from the immune system.
However, if the infection is still in its infancy, a blood test may not yield a positive result even if your pet does have heartworm disease, as there may not be sufficient antigens in your pet’s blood to get a positive result. The blood test may require further tests such as CBC, thyroid testing, etc. to get an accurate result.
Other ways to diagnose heartworm disease in pets include taking X-rays of the heart and lungs or taking echocardiograms to evaluate heart function.
The short answer: PREVENTION! PREVENTION! PREVENTION! There are a few things you can do to keep mosquitoes away from your pets, such as using screens, keeping windows and doors closed, or limiting the presence of any stagnant water around your home and yard. But the most effective option is keeping up to date on preventatives!
Fortunately, humans cannot develop heartworm disease. While they can become infected with heartworm larvae if they are bitten by an infected mosquito, the larvae cannot survive in their bloodstream.
What do you know about parasites?