Preventing heartworm disease in dogs and cats

By: Carter Hammett

Ah, summer! Time to break out the bbq and soak up some sun. Unfortunately, summer is also mosquito time and that can be bad news for dogs and cats.

That’s because it’s during the summer months that mosquitos can pass on the blood parasite heartworm to susceptible animals.

Because adult heartworms reside in the heart and lungs, these are the areas that are directly affected in dogs. Clinical signs may include difficulty breathing, coughing, nosebleeds, lethargy, seizures, weight loss and even sudden death. In cats, these symptoms tend to be more diverse and thus difficult to detect.

Heartworm’s estimated to affect up to 60 percent of dogs, but only about 15 percent of cats. Cruelly ironic, about 30 percent of all North American cats are strictly indoor pets, and therefore considered higher risk because they lack the immunity to mosquito bites that their outdoor counterparts possess.

Heartworms release their offspring, called microfilariae, into an animal’s bloodstream. Mosquitos become infected with microfilariae while feasting on blood from an infected animal. It takes about two weeks for the microfilariae to develop to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. Subsequently, the insect bites another dog or cat and the larvae enter the animal through this wound. From there, it takes about six months for the larvae to develop into adult worms. Within dogs, the worms may live for up to seven years; in cats, about two-to-three years.

Heartworm detection is normally obtained through blood tests for substances like antigen or microfilariae. Tests can take up to seven months to be positive after infection has occurred.

Since the condition is avertable, pet owners should speak to their veterinarian about a plan to best protect pets from this dangerous condition. Prevention is generally safe, convenient and affordable. Treatment in dogs is promising, but is complex and expensive, often taking weeks for an infected pet’s recovery. There is no effective treatment for heartworm in cats, so an emphasis on prevention is critical.

Thankfully the concept of “wellness” has evolved enough to include health strategies in pets, and it’s critical that successful interventions include early prevention. Once a pet has been assessed, it’s important to establish a prevention program that reflects the local climate where the animal resides. Mosquitos generally require certain climate conditions to transmit the illness.

There are several preventive products available on the market and some are successful against a broad constellation of parasites. Some of the most effective contain preventives like milbemycin oxime, which is a key ingredient in pet medications like Interceptor White (also a dewormer and effective in both dogs and cats) and Sentinel (which also helps control fleas but used only for dogs). Consult your vet about the various ways these pet medications can be obtained, including mail order.

By collaborating closely with your veterinarian, heartworm disease can be successfully intercepted and your pet can and will manage to have a successful quality of life. And the summer will become a season to celebrate for many reasons.

Addison’s Disease in Dogs:
Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) results from insufficient production of the hormones cortisol, aldosterone (or both) by the adrenal glands. It’s generally thought to be caused by damage to the exterior layer of the adrenal gland (adrenal cortex), which is responsible for producing hormones like adrenaline, estrogen, testosterone and cortisone.

Addison’s occurs in three forms: Primary, where disease “kills” the adrenal gland. Causes of this type can include metastatic tumours, infections, various types of inflammation and trauma. In its Secondary form, Addison’s occurs when problems with the pituitary fail to stimulate the adrenals with adrenocorticotropic hormone, and includes problems like inflammation, trauma and pituitary cancer.

But this type is generally believed to be most commonly caused when a cortisone used for medical treatment is suddenly withdrawn. It can also occur due to the presence of pituitary cancer that interferes with hormone production that stimulates the adrenal glands. An Atypical type can also occur.
The disease typically affects dogs between four-and-seven years old. Up to 85 percent of these dogs are female and some breeds like Great Danes, rottweilers, standard poodles, Portuguese water dogs and Highland white terriers appear to be more at risk than others. Source URl :

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Carter Hammett is a Toronto writer and editor. Visit his web site at: To know more about Interceptor White and Sentinel click here.

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