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Heartworm Disease!

The heart is the most vital organ, it sustains life; and like all organs it is susceptible to disease. Our canine/feline companions are at great risk for developing HEARTWORM DISEASE (HW) medically coined, dirofiliarsis. It is a blood-bourne disease with a vector carrier.

 The term is self explanatory, it’s a worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that resides in the heart and associated structures. The question on your mind though is how does my dog/cat get heartworm? Mosquitoes are the carriers of the larvae form of the disease agent. A healthy dog is bitten by an infected mosquito and injects larvae (microfilaria) into the blood stream. The larvae can reside in your dog/cat without showing symptoms.

 When the larvae migrate to the heart they develop into adult worms, which can be fatal. Heartworm will occupy the heart and its associated vessels.

 Common clinical signs include coughing, shortness of breath and loss of appetite, weight loss and vomiting. These signs are also very non-specific, hence, diagnostics such as the 4Dx Snap test can definitively identify if your dog is positive for heartworm. Blood smears can also be performed to identify the presence of microfilaria/larvae. Complete blood count and biochemistry are other standard tests that could be performed to assess the overall health of your pet. Radiographs are performed to assess heart and lung changes associated with the presence of adult worms.

 Treatment for heartworm can be quite costly and response to treatment will vary from case to case and should be assessed on an individual level. There is currently no known safe treatment for cats with heartworm.

 Early diagnosis may have a better outcome for dogs/cats diagnosed with HW. However, in this case, prevention is better than cure. Many of our deworming agents protect your dog against HW. Proper dosing and on a regular schedule can protect your dog and cat from contracting HW.

 Because the health and well-being of our furry companions are our priority, we at the TTSPCA Tobago Animal Shelter and Clinic are here to provide the necessary advice or aid where necessary. We aim to educate all pet owners so as to provide a better quality of life for our four-legged friends. If you require further information, assistance or have questions for us, you can contact us at 639-2567 or email us at For emergencies you can contact us at 308-0219.

Author: Veterinary Clinician at TTSPCA Tobago Clinic, Kalidia Millette DVM, BSc.
Last Updated: 2018-07-05T14:38:14.200Z