As a veterinarian in Ga., I know as many as 80% of unprotected dogs can become infected with heartworms.
Georgia has some of the highest rates of infection.
Pets acquire heartworms through mosquitoes that inject heartworm larvae into the bloodstream during their bite. Some areas have severe heartworm problems while other areas have virtually none. Even indoor dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworms as the mosquito is very aggressive and often gets into our homes.
The Heartworm is a large worm, up to 14 inches long, that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. Dogs and other canines such as coyotes, are the natural hosts but cats can become infected as well.
Heartworm infection can lead to heart failure or sudden death. Coughing and exercise intolerance are a few signs of this disease but these often take years to develop while heart disease slowly, quietly worsens. Other pets die very suddenly with no prior evidence of any problems.
One thing your vet knows, is this disease is nearly completely avoidable with a monthly heartworm preventative. Unfortunately, veterinarians still treat lots of dogs for heartworms and the numbers are actually rising.
Cats are very different indeed. Once infected with heartworms, cats typically have signs of lung disease rather than the heart though sudden death and heart disease is seen occasionally.
In fact, it is thought that many of these cats are incorrectly diagnosed with feline asthma. Georgia vets realize the number of heartworm infected cats is larger than those affected by feline leukemia. So, a monthly preventative is just as important for cats!
Testing for heartworms is needed each year, even if pets are on preventative. This is because if pets become accidentally infected, the preventatives can actually be harmful. It is important to talk with your veterinarian and get the medication your pet needs to prevent heartworm and treat if necessary.
Contact your vet in Canton to test and treat your pet for heartworm.