During the period of high temperatures, the proliferation of disease-carrying mosquitoes increases. One of the concerns of mothers or fathers of a pet is heartworm disease, which is increasingly common in Brazil, especially during the summer and in coastal cities.
Caused by a long, thin nematode parasite (Dirofilaria immitis), which settles in different organs, such as the lungs and the heart, heartworm disease is a serious disease that can lead to death. When it bites the animal, the microfilariae fall into the circulation and reach the heart, where they deposit on the right side – that’s why they are called “heartworm”.
Thais Matos, veterinarian at DogHero, the largest pet services company in Latin America, explains that mosquitoes of the genera Culex, Aedes and Anopheles are the main culprits in transmitting heartworm disease in dogs and cats. “the Verão is the most favorable season for the rapid development and reproduction of this parasite. In addition to being favorable for spreading to other animals, the heartworm mistreats pets and leads to several complications in their health”.
Usually, the diagnosis is late, because the animal takes a few months to show signs (since it is only with the development of the parasite that the symptoms begin to appear). Some of the main symptoms of heartworm are: exercise intolerance, weakness, listlessness, chronic cough, rapid breathing, dyspnea (rapid and short breathing) and weight loss.
Once heartworm disease is detected, treatment will depend on the severity, i.e. the number of larvae, their size, and the health of the heart and adjacent organs. “If the presence of the heartworm is not detected in the vital organs, but the microfilariae are known to be there, it may be due to their size, which is still small. Even so, treatment is essential so that the animal’s health is not compromised,” says Thais.
When the infestation is not heavy, treatment to kill the adult individuals of the worm and the microfilariae in the blood may be recommended. “Afterwards, the doctor will ask for tests again to detect if there is still the presence of the parasite. If this is the case, the animal will have to undergo another round of treatment,” explains the veterinarian.
How to prevent? – To prevent the animal from being bitten by mosquitoes and infected with “heartworm”, the best option is daily care. “For the guardian who lives near the coast or in very hot places, prevention also consists in carrying out serological tests on the animal more frequently. The veterinarian will be able to recommend preventive treatments to kill the microfilariae before they reach adulthood and cause adverse effects”. guides specialist DogHero, who adds two more tips for pet moms and dads, they are:
- Collars (for dogs) and pipettes (for cats): this type of accessory can help guardians by not letting an infected mosquito approach and feed on the blood of the animal, thus carrying out the transmission of the parasite;
- Dewormers: some specific ivermectin dewormers are also effective and should be administered a few days before your pet’s visit to the beach, but these may not be suitable for all breeds and therefore it is essential to consult your veterinarian before using them. them on the animal. Important: when we talk about the beach, we do not limit it to the sea and the sand, but we extend it to the entire coastal region, where the risks of mosquito infection are greater.
Pet parents should always consult a veterinarian before using any product on their pet. Only the professional will know which is the most suitable for each case.