Nov 25

Heartworm Disease

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Heartworm Disease: What You Should Know

There are four stages of symptoms for being infected with heartworms. Dogs and cats have similar symptoms but there can be differences. The following are some generic symptoms, but not a complete list. If your pet has other symptoms not listed here contact your vet immediately.

1. Occasional cough
2. Occasional cough with excessive fatigue
3. Significant cough, fatigue, trouble breathing, weight loss, coughing up blood, excessive fluid in abdomen
4. Caval Syndrome – This is when there is a blockage of blood flow to the heart due a large number of heartworms grouped together around the heart. All other symptoms will or may be present at this time.

We become busy in our human lives and hidden issues with our pet’s health can creep up without us realizing it. One of those issues is Heartworm Disease.

Heartworm disease is very dangerous and can be fatal for your pet.  Heartworms infiltrate the heart, lungs, and blood vessels that can lead to severe health issues and eventually death. These worms that can grow up to a foot long! Heartworms can affect dogs, cats, and most mammals including the occasional human.

All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito. The heartworms live inside the mosquito until they are able to infect mammals. Heartworms are more prevalent in eastern United States and the Gulf of Mexico but are found in most states in the US.

If your pet has symptoms of heartworm disease, you should take them to your local vet as soon as possible. Time is crucial and can be a matter of life and death. If you’re in the Charlotte, NC, area and need a veterinarian, please check us out: The Carolina’s Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic. We are located at 13331 York Center Drive, Suite A, Charlotte, NC 28273.

The vet will test your pet’s blood for antigen which is protein that the worms create in the body. If your pet is only in the first stage of infection, tests can come back with a false negative. If this occurs you should get them tested again at your vet’s discretion. There is medicine that can be prescribed to dogs to combat a heartworm infection but there is no medicinal treatment for cats, only preventative medicine. IMPORTANT: In severe cases of heartworm disease, heartworm medication can be dangerous.

Preventative care is top priority to keep your pet heartworm free.
1. Pets should be tested once a year for heartworms even if they are on preventative medicine.
2. Puppies should start on heartworm preventative medicine as soon as 6-8 weeks old and be tested 6 months after to make sure they are heartworm free.
3. If a dog, 7 months of age and older, has never been on preventative medicine they should be tested before going on medication.
4. Your cat’s test may include an X-ray or ultrasound due to the fact that heartworms are harder to detect in cats. This is because heartworms mature more slowly in cats.

Contact us to set up a heartworm test for your pet (other pets, even ferrets, can be infected by heartworms). Testing yearly will make sure they stay heartworm free. If your pet has any symptoms, contact us immediately. Call 704-588-9788 or visit

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