Heartworm: the silent, slow killer
Heartworm is a silent, slow killer. Symptoms are usually not present until the severe stage of the disease and so is largely undetected until serious damage has already occurred. However, it is one disease that can be easily and totally prevented via ongoing preventative medication.
Prevention is still crucial. The disease is still prevalent in Australia amongst the fox population. Therefore, it is ongoing preventative treatment that is keeping rates low in dog and cat populations!
What is Heartworm disease?
Heartworm is transmitted via mosquitos, who bite an infected carrier. This includes feral, uncontrolled animals such as foxes, who subsequently infects another animal. It is endemic throughout mainland Australia in foxes. Heartworm is more common in foxes than in your dogs and cats. However, it is still a huge issues if your pet is not protected.
After being infected by a mosquito, worms undergo several life stages. They breed continually, until adult worms eventually start to grow inside a pet's heart and lungs, causing serious damage. These worms can grow up to 30cm long, and are a major barrier to the free passage of blood from the heart to the lungs. The infection slowly progresses. The heart begins to dilate, becomes weak and in the lungs, the worms cause scarring and a build-up of fluid.
Sudden death is the most obvious symptom of heartworm disease, along with a persistent cough that progressively becomes worse over time. Lethargy sets in and the dog will not be able to exercise without serious cough and breathing issues. Fluid accumulates throughout the abdomen, causing a bloated appearance.
In cats heartworm disease can take up to 2 years. It is not quite as serious as a cat’s immune system is far superior at recognising foreign parasites. However, serious disease can be caused with just one worm, whereas in dogs, 1 or 2 worms are usually well tolerated. Unfortunately, the most common sign of the disease in cats is sudden death, but if your cat is struggling to breathe or coughing, you should also be concerned.
Most Heartworm treatments must be administered monthly for full effectiveness, and unfortunately most pet owners simply forget or are unaware of the importance of full protection. They often don't realise that even 1 missed month leaves their pet vulnerable.
Recommended Heartworm prevention for dogs
We highly recommend a product called ProHeart SR12, as the most efficient, cost-effective and easy-to-remember product on the market. A once yearly injection, as opposed to a monthly tablet, ProHeart SR12 kills heartworm at every stage of development, unlike other products on the market that generally only kill adult heartworm. SR12 is approved for feeding dogs and bitches as well as heartworm positive dogs. There is an extremely low rate of adverse reaction and it's safe from 12 weeks of age.
The first dosage of SR12 coincides with your dog’s 12 week vaccinations. There is a 3-month reachback, meaning that even if your puppy was infected by a mosquito in the 12 week period, the heartworms will be killed. This effectively protects your puppy from birth. At 6 months, the second treatment is administered. At 15 months of age, the third and subsequent annual treatments coincide with vaccination. Each single dose after the initial 3 will provide your dog with continuous 12 month protection no other product can provide.
Choosing SR12 takes the burden of heartworm protection out of the owner's hands and into the vet's, putting both parties at ease and making for a happier, healthier dog. This reinforces the need for annual health checks, as your dog will already be in the clinic and eliminates non-compliance with monthly treatment.
Recommended Heartworm treatments for cats
ProHeart SR12 is not approved for use in cats, however Instead, Revolution is a very safe and efficient protectant. Revolution protects both cats and dogs from fleas, ear mites, hookworm, roundworm and shipworm. When used in conjunction with Canex, it also provides protection from tapeworm and sarcoptic mange. Revolution is the only product on the market which kills fleas at every stage of development, while also killing fleas that live in your home.
Protect your cat and dog from this silent killer.
Please contact us at Ovens & Kiewa Veterinary Hospital if you'd like any more information.
Serving the pet community of the Alpine Shire Council. The pawfect location for pet parents living in Myrtleford, Kiewa Valley, Ovens Valley and surrounding areas!