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Heartworm Awareness Month: Ottawa's Initiative to Protect Pets


Heartworm disease is a common condition that can wreak havoc on your dog's health. Around one in 200 dogs test positive for heartworm each year. Despite its devastating consequences, there are many preventative steps pet owners can take to prevent their dogs from getting this disease. 

The month of April is dedicated to heartworm awareness in Ottawa. This article will discuss the basics of the health condition and what you can do to protect your four-legged friend. 

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms look like small, white pieces of cooked spaghetti. Male heartworms can grow to six inches in length. Female heartworms can go up to double that size. 

Heartworm disease is a bloodborne parasite that gets transmitted through an infected mosquito bite. Mosquitoes can feed off of a cat or dog that's already infected. The mosquitoes will pass the "baby" heartworms into the bloodstream of the next animal they bite. 

Over time, the tiny heartworms will grow into adult worms. These worms will travel through the bloodstream into the right side of the animal's heart. 

How Does It Harm Animals?

As we mentioned, adult heartworms will make their way into an animal's heart. The heartworm clogs the major vessels in the heart. This causes similar symptoms as heart disease. 

Heartworms can eventually lead to congestive heart failure. The worms can restrict blood flow to other organs and cause serious damage. These organs can include:

  • Kidneys

  • Liver 

  • Lungs

Baby heartworms can circulate in an animal's bloodstream through smaller blood vessels. Their movement can cause damage to these organs, as well. 

What Are the Signs of Heartworms?

There are some symptoms you should keep an eye out for. These include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness

  • Dry cough

  • Fainting

  • Symptoms of liver failure

  • Sudden death

  • Fluid buildup in limbs or abdomen

Schedule an appointment with a vet in Ottawa right away if you notice any of the above signs. 

Is There Heartworm Treatment?

It's easier to prevent heartworms than it is to treat them. Preventative medications are an easy way to keep your cats and dogs safe. 

Heartworms in dogs can get killed in two stages if they're caught early. Keep in mind that killing adult heartworms carries the risk of decomposing worms breaking up and causing embolisms or strokes. Cage rest for around 30 days is vital after getting treatment as a precautionary measure. 

Your dog might have to get treated for other medical conditions if their other organs have been damaged by the heartworms. Unfortunately, there is no approved heartworm treatment for cats. 

Learn More About Heartworm Awareness in Ottawa

Heartworm awareness in Ottawa is a great time to educate yourself on pet protection and heartworm treatment. Heartworms can be avoidable if you take the proper steps to protect your animal. Spread awareness about this tragic illness by bringing others' attention to this month. 

Chapel Hill Veterinary Clinic is here to help you learn about heartworm prevention and pet care. Reach out to our office to book an appointment with one of our vets. We'll schedule a time and date that works best for your schedule.


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