Heartworm is caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis. This worm is present during the warmer months (spring, summer and early fall). The larvae is transmitted by mosquitoes. The three endemic areas for this disease in Canada are Manitoba, southern Ontario and southern Quebec. Although the incidence of the disease is not dramatic, a recent study by Dr. Slocombe of the University of Guelph demonstrates that the disease has doubled in numbers of cases since 2002 .
The worm tends to infest the large vessels surrounding the heart, and depending on the degree of infestation, can even enter in the heart chambers as well as the lungs. This can have very serious consequences on the health of your pet. The most common clinical signs are, once again depending on severity: cough, intolerance to exercise, difficulty breathing, lethargy, collapse. It is a difficult disease to treat, therefore the best way to deal with this disease is prevention.
Although the disease is not always fatal, treatment is very expensive and the risk of major side effects are possible. A way better alternative is to make sure your dogs, cats and ferrets stay protected from it altogether.
A blood test to verify the presence of heartworm in your pet is recommended yearly. Veterinarians will prescribe your pet a preventive medicine for their specific needs, which will keep it safe from heartworm disease. There are a variety of products available on the market. The product needs to be administered monthly from May/June until November (the period where mosquitoes are more common). Some of these products have the advantage of preventing heartworm as well as common intestinal parasites and fleas. A three in one. What more can we ask for ?
If you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a member of the medical team of the Clinic (514-634-4190) who will be happy to assist you.