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Lawrence Veterinary Hospital can test your pets in-house with a simple blood draw to determine if they have heartworm. If they have not been on preventative, they are at risk. Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals and in rare instances humans. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection transmitted by mosquitos.
If you have indoor pets, they are at risk too! Have you ever swatted a mosquito in your house? Your pets are not immune to this life-threatening disease unless you give them preventative. Scroll down to see questions and answers about Heartworm disease and call to schedule your yearly heartworm exam to ensure your pet's health.
Where is Heartworm Disease? Since it is transmitted by mosquitos, it is present in Lawrence. Kansas reports 6-25 cases per veterinary hospital in 2007, with a substantial increase since 2001. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states.
How Do We Detect Heartworm Disease? Heartworm infection in apparently healthy animals can usually be detected with yearly blood tests for a heartworm substance called an antigen or microfilariae, although neither test is consistently positive until about seven months after infection has occurred.
Heartworm infection may also occasionally be detected through ultrasound and/or x-ray images of the heart and lungs, although these tests are usually used in animals already known to be infected.
What Are the Signs of Heartworm Disease? For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite and weight loss.
Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non-specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Signs associated with the first stage of heartworm disease, when the heartworms enter a blood vessel and are carried to the pulmonary arteries, are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).