Though heartworms are not very common in Québec, it is still important to protect your pet against this parasite as cases are diagnosed every year. Pets that travel to other regions or countries are even more at risk of contracting heartworms.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms, also called Dirofilaria Immitis, are parasites that are transmitted via insect bites. These long, whitish worms can grow up to 30 centimetres long. They settle and reproduce in the pulmonary arteries and heart chambers. When there are a lot of heartworms present, they can be very dangerous and even potentially fatal for your pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm?
One of the reasons these parasites are so dangerous is because they cause almost no symptoms when they first infect your pet’s cardiac system. Symptoms only appear after they start reproducing and the infection worsens. These symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Panting/shortness of breath
- Difficulty exercising
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What are the treatments for heartworm?
Given how dangerous these parasites can be, we advise all of our clients to give their pets a preventative antiparasitic treatment. This treatment comes in different formats. Antiparasitic drugs act to destroy the worm larvae before they can mature and reproduce.
There are also medications to treat animals that have a large number of heartworms, but these treatments are not entirely safe. Because the worms are hard to reach, this condition can be difficult to treat and the medication can be very taxing for pets and expensive for owners.