What it is: A parasitic infection transmitted through a mosquito bite. Adult worms lodge in the lung’s pulmonary arteries and sometimes chambers of the heart.
Whom it affects: Dogs and, less commonly, cats.
Possible symptoms: Pets are often asymptomatic in the early stages of infection. If the disease is left untreated, dogs can develop a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue, a reduced appetite, and weight loss. Cats may experience vomiting, signs mimicking asthma, and even death.
Treatment: Curing heartworm in a dog is a complicated and expensive process, in which activity is restricted for up to two months and a series of three injections is administered by a veterinarian. Unfortunately there is no approved treatment for cats.
Prevention: Heartworm prevention is safe, easy, and inexpensive. Pet owners can give animals a monthly tablet, and there is a topical liquid treatment for cats that is very effective when administered properly. (Note: It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for administration.)