Case Study: Heartworm disease hits home.

Please meet two of our newer (and very adorable) patients- Bailey & Sisco!

Bailey

Bailey is a very sweet 7 year old female black lab who enjoys snuggling and lounging on the couch.

 

Sisco_shepherd

Sisco is a 7 year old energetic male shepherd that is very outgoing and playful.

Both of these dogs are rescues from the Virginia-Maryland area and have recently been diagnosed with heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that live in the pulmonary vessels (the vessels which carry blood from the heart to the lungs).   Dogs and cats of any age, breed, or living condition (indoors and outdoors) are at risk in our area.  Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.  Looking at the map below, although the incidence of heartworm disease in our area is less than in other areas of the country, it still only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to infect your pet.

This map shows the regional incidence of heartworm disease in the United States.  It only takes one bite from an infected mosiquot to transfer heartworms to your pet. Image source: American Heartworm Society.

This map shows the regional incidence of heartworm disease in the United States. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transfer heartworms to your pet. Image source: American Heartworm Society.

The medical work-up and treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is very expensive, painful, and requires strictly resting the pet for several months to limit the risks of complications (and complications can be very serious in some pets).

Heartworms in the heart of a dog.  Image source: American Heartworn Society

Heartworms in the heart of a dog. Image source: American Heartworm Society

The diagnosis and treatment of heartworm disease in cats is much more complex, but is also very expensive and management can be challenging.

Fortunately both Bailey and Sisco were diagnosed early on in the disease process and have very dedicated owners so they are doing great so far in their treatment for heartworm disease!

Luckily, heartworm disease is preventable!  We recommend routine annual heartworm screening (a simple blood test) for all of our dog patients, and monthly heartworm prevention for all of our dog and cat patients (and ferrets too)!

For more information, check out the American Heartworm Society’s website or feel free to contact us with any questions or to check your pet’s heartworm test status or any needed preventative refills.

*Dr. Jennifer Boyle worked on these cases and contributed to this article.

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