Think you are the only one mosquitoes bother? Think again. Our pets are just as bothered by these pesky insects, and not just because of their itchy bites. Mosquitoes can be heartworm carriers which can be hazardous to your pet’s health.
What Are Heartworms?
Heartworms are a parasite carried by infected mosquitoes. The threadlike worm targets the blood vessels of the pulmonary system and, occasionally, the right side of the heart. Often the parasite remains in the lungs and lung arteries, but it may migrate to the heart. It is also possible for the parasite to travel outside of the lungs and heart to cause blindness, seizures, and lameness.
Heartworms require a mosquito in order to be transmitted. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, heartworm larvae pass to the insect through the blood ingested. The mosquito, once infected, can pass the larvae to other animals through their bite. This infection is not just limited to dogs and cats. Other household pets, like ferrets, are susceptible, as are coyotes, wolves, foxes and beavers.
Heartworm in Dogs
Heartworm can be hard to diagnose in dogs because generally they show little to no symptoms until an infestation has taken hold. In the first six months after infection, most dogs will be asymptomatic. Symptoms typically only appear in dogs that are more active. More active dogs may have a cough in the early stages of the infection, particularly after they have exercised. In advanced cases of the infection, dogs will shows signs of severe weight loss, coughing up blood, fainting and eventually will succumb to congestive heart failure. If caught earlier, the infection can be treated.
Heartworm in Cats
Our feline friends are not free of this disease either, though they are less likely to be infected. Cat infections are less frequent because they are not a natural host of the parasite, as dogs are. This does not mean that cats are immune to the parasite. Both indoor and outdoor cats can be infected with heartworms. The lifespan of the infection is considerably shorter in cats than in dogs. When a cat is infected, the worms will infect the lungs, but it can also infect the brain and body cavities. Symptoms include coughing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing.
Heartworm Treatment and Prevention
It is important to treat your animals with heartworm preventative medicine to help deter the infection. There are many prevention treatments available at pet stores and veterinary offices. Treat both indoor and outdoor pets as mosquitoes can be present both inside and outside the house. Your veterinarian can prescribe the proper treatment for your pet is they have been infected.
Heartworm preventative medicine is the best prevention for your pets. However, it is also important to help guard yourself and your pets by consulting a pest control professional to treat your yard with a mosquito repellent. A professional exterminator can help you to keep your yard and home mosquito free throughout the year, lessening your pets’ risk of contracting heartworm and lessening your risk of being annoyed or catching another mosquito-borne illness. Keep your family, both furry and not, from the danger of mosquitoes and the illnesses they can carry by having your yard treated for mosquitoes by a pest control expert.