A preventable, deadly disease to your dog or cat

Animal Welfare Pet Care Pets Pet Health Posted Feb 13, 2024
Heartworm can be a deadly disease to your furry friend, but with the right amount of prevention, you can keep the worms away.
What is heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasitic worm that can infect your pet through just one mosquito bite! An infected mosquito injects larvae into bloodstream.

In the past three months RSPCA Queensland have tested 427 dogs for heartworm with 5% (or 21) of those animals testing positive for the disease. 

A recent research paper shows the prevalence of Heartworm in Townsville (≈30%) is significantly higher than in Brisbane (≈1.5%), and in both locations has reduced markedly since the introduction of effective heartworm preventions from the 1990s. In Queensland, recent reports have shown a high prevalence of heartworm in shelter dogs 5.8% in Southern Qld, 8.7% in Central Qld and 31.8% in Northern Qld, pig hunting dogs 21% in Central Qld.

possum joey on ground

Heartworm hot spots
Dogs and cats cat contract heartworm anywhere a mozzie can go, but we’ve seen a spike over recent months across certain suburbs with dogs contracting heartworm.

Moreton Bay, Cairns, Ipswich, Mackay, and Townsville.

Heartworm is a slow onset disease meaning months or potentially years could pass before the signs become clear. When symptoms do start to show, your furry friend could have a large amount of heartworm and it’s difficult to treat with severe consequences. Worms can cause heart and lung failure.

Heartworm preventatives
The best form of treatment for your four-legged friends is prevention. Diagnosing heartworm can be challenging, especially in cats.

There are many heartworm preventatives that are available for both dogs and cats, like Comfortis Plus. Prevention should begin at six to eight weeks of age. Some forms come in a chewable tablet or as spot-on application. There are tablets or spot-on application for cats as well to prevent heartworm. Some tablets even cover other parasites such as intestinal worms and fleas, so you can fully protect your pet!

You can also ask your vet about the best preventative method for your pet and ask about yearly heartworm preventative injections for dogs.

Other tips to help prevent your pet getting heartworm
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Don’t let stagnant water sit around your property, it’s a breeding zone for mosquitoes. Empty and replace water frequently - bird baths, water troughs and any containers.
Heartworm treatment
The sad reality is, heartworm is much harder to treat than other worms.

RSPCA Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Anne Chester advises, “Once your pet has contracted heartworm, it can take months to rectify and treatment can be expensive. I cannot stress enough that heartworm is a serious disease, most common in dogs. But cats can contract the parasite too.”
Foster a dog undergoing heartworm treatment
Every dog entering RSPCA facilities is tested for heartworm and provided treatment accordingly.

Many patients require lengthy treatment and require foster carers while they recover. If you’d like to help foster an RSPCA animal, apply online today.

Sophie Oxford
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