If you are a pet owner, your vet in Miramar Beach, FL will almost certainly talk to you about the importance of preventative care. These are appointments carried out with the intention of monitoring the health and wellbeing of your pet so that any developing health problems can be spotted early. This enables prompt treatment and improves the likely outcome for your pet.
There are a range of different aspects to preventative care. Some of the things that you can expect to be included in your pet’s annual wellness appointment include:
- A full physical nose to tail examination of your pet
- Vaccinations (if boosters are required)
- Urinalysis and fecal analysis
- Blood testing
- Dental check-up
- Parasite screening
There are a number of different parasites that can affect our pets, including heartworms. Fortunately, heartworm disease is something that is screened for by virtually all veterinarians since it can have serious and even deadly consequences for our pets.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm diseases is illness that is caused by an infestation of heartworms, an internal parasite that survives by living off of the blood and nutrients of their host. Heartworms are transmitted between animals by mosquitos, who transfer infant offspring, known as microfilariae, into the bloodstream of your pet when they bite her. These microfilariae travel through the bloodstream until they reach the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. After around 6 months, the microfilariae have matured into adult heartworms that are capable of reproducing. Once this happens the worms begin to cause congestion in the arteries and blood vessels, preventing the flow of blood around your pet’s body and causing damage to her internal organs. Left untreated, lung disease, organ damage and heart failure are almost guaranteed.
Animals are naturally inclined to try and hide any signs of weakness, including anything that might suggest that they are unwell. This is done so that they don’t appear weak or vulnerable – an instinct that stems from the days when all animals lived in the wild and were under constant threat from predators. However, to make things even more difficult, most heartworm infestations don’t present with any symptoms until at least 6 months after the point of infection. In many instances, but the time an animal is diagnosed with heartworms, the condition is fairly well advanced.
Heartworms symptoms normally get progressively worse. In the early stages, your pet may show signs including:
- Shortness of breath
- Regular coughing – a cough that is short and dry
- Loss of stamina, most noticeable on walks and during games
As the infestation becomes more severe, you may notice symptoms of heartworms that include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent coughing
- Extreme lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Total unwillingness to participate in any sort of physical exertion
- Weight loss
In most cases, heartworms are relatively well confined to the blood vessels of the heart and lungs. However, it is not unheard of for them to spread to the eyes and brain where they can cause blindness, disorientation and even seizures.
If you’d like to know more about the annual exams at Barry Veterinary Hospital and if your pet’s annual exams include screening for heartworms, contact your vets in Miramar Beach FL at 850-2014-1940. If your adorable animal hasn’t been screened for heartworms in the last year, or if she has heartworm symptoms and you are concerned for her wellbeing, you shouldn’t delay in seeking professional advice. Please contact our veterinary hospital in Miramar, FL to schedule a heartworm check for your pet.