Do I Really Need to Worry About Protecting My Dog or Cat Against Heartworm in Melbourne?
Heartworm thrives in tropical areas, but it is becoming increasingly common in temperate zones in Australia, and in Melbourne in particular. A recent study showed that roughly 7% of all foxes in the Melbourne region are infected with heartworm. And because the parasite’s larva are borne by mosquitoes, your pet never even needs to come in to direct contact with another infected animal in order to develop the condition. Since 2014, nearly 1500 cases of heartworm have been reported nationally, with over 46 of these in Victoria.
While heartworm usually presents as a minor condition in cats, the story is different for dogs, for whom the condition can often prove fatal if not treated effectively. We strongly recommend that all dog owners in particular think seriously about having their pets treated regularly with anti-heartworm medication. Talk to the preventative medicine experts at Clyde Veterinary Hospital about an effective preventative regime for your pet.
Incidence of Heartworm in Australia
Should I Have My Dog Protected Against Heartworm?
Yes. Heartworm in dogs is always a serious and life-threatening condition. The worms can seriously damage not just your dog’s heart tissue, but also their lungs, liver and other vital organs. We strongly recommend maintaining a preventative care regime against heartworm for all dogs in Melbourne.
Should I Have My Cat Protected Against Heartworm?
While it is certainly possible for your cat to develop heartworm, cats are not a natural host for the parasite, and consequently the worms rarely develop to an adult stage in felines. In rare cases where the worms do mature to adulthood, they can still damage your cat’s heart and internal organs, but the infestation is usually significantly less pronounced than is seen in dogs and so more difficult to diagnose. It is ultimately your choice whether to have your cat protected, but with heartworm incidence on the rise in Melbourne, it is often the right choice for complete peace of mind. Talk to us at Clyde Vet about your cat’s unique circumstances to learn more.
How is Heartworm Transmitted Between Animals?
Microscopic heartworm larvae (microfilariae) present in the blood system of an infected animal are carried by mosquitoes, which can then pass the larvae into the blood system of any other animals which they prey on. It then takes around six and a half months for the larvae to develop into adult worms in their new host. For this reason, a diseased animal may show no initial symptoms before suddenly becoming very sick.
How Regularly Does Anti-heartworm Medication Need to Be Administered to a Dog or Cat?
We recommend administering yearly anti-heartworm medication for dogs and monthly for cats regularly on the same day of each month (the first is the easiest to remember). While summer is regarded as “mosquito season” in Melbourne, mosquitoes are present in Victoria all year round, and often thrive after periods of heavy rain. For this reason it’s important to ensure that your pet is protected all year round.
What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs and cats may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The disease can develop rapidly, and once the heartworm reaches maturity, dogs may become prone to heart failure or complications in other vital organs, and display a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. If your dog or cat is showing any of these symptoms, we recommend that you should have them urgently tested for heartworm.
Will Heartworm Treatment Protect My Dog or Cat Against Other Intestinal Worms?
It depends on the choice of treatment, but several of the most common anti-heartworm medications do also work to prevent your pet becoming host to a range of common parasitic worms, including tapeworm, hookworm, ringworm and roundworm. Talk to us at Clyde Vet about the best option for your pet’s comprehensive long term preventative health plan.
What are the Symptoms of Intestinal Worms in Dogs and Cats?
The signs and symptoms of intestinal worms vary greatly depending on the type of worm and the severity of the infestation. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stool, loss of appetite or vomiting. Tapeworms and whipworms typically cause mild symptoms, but severe infestations with roundworms and hookworms can make your pet seriously ill and may even cause anemia leading to death, depending on how badly they are infested. Puppies and Kittens are particularly vulnerable. If your dog or cat is displaying any of these symptoms, we strongly recommend having them tested for intestinal worms as a matter of urgency.
Should I Have My New Puppy or Kitten Wormed?
Yes. Some level of intestinal worm infestation is common in kittens and puppies, and at that age, they are extremely vulnerable to disease, so we recommend having all new kittens and puppies wormed at every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old, with follow-up boosters as necessary. Contact Clyde Vet for a proper assessment of your young one’s individual needs and a comprehensive anti-worming regime.
What are the Most Common Intestinal Worms in Dogs and Cats, and How Do They Differ?
Roundworms are the most common intestinal worm in pets, with a recent study showing roundworm represent between 25 to 75 percent of intestinal worm infestations.
Roundworms grow to be between three and five inches long and eat the food your pet ingests, stealing their nutrients. The worms then produce eggs, which your pet eliminates in their faeces. The eggs can take weeks to become infective, so for cat owners, making sure you maintain good hygiene with their litter tray by cleaning it regularly is an excellent preventative measure.
Hookworms can be fatal, especially in kittens or puppies. In their fourth larval stage, hookworms can cause anemia and inflammation in your pet’s small intestine. Active worms leave bite sites which can continue to seep blood. Hookworms are generally contracted through either ingestion or skin exposure to contaminated water.
Hookworms are too small to be seen with the naked eye – only a trained veterinarian can offer a definitive diagnosis. A general unhealthy appearance and poor appetite are the most common symptoms of infestation. The linings of your pet’s nostrils, lips, and ears will often also be pale and they may present with dark and tarry stool, diarrhea, or constipation. Death can come suddenly if the animal is not immediately treated, so if you see any of these symptoms, we recommend contacting Clyde Veterinary Hospital immediately for a more detailed examination.
Tapeworm can be transmitted by your pet eating fleas or prey that has been infested with tapeworm larvae. For this reason, maintaining a regular anti-flea regime is also an excellent preventative measure against tapeworm. The worm then matures in your pet’s large intestine before its body breaks up into egg carrying segments which are then passed out in the animal’s faeces. If you notice light coloured flecks in your pet’s stool, this is usually a symptom of tapeworm infestation.
Whipworm is usually contracted through exposure to contaminated faeces or soil. Pets with minor infestations may not present with any visible symptoms, but in more severe cases bloody diarrhea is the most usual sign of the presence of whipworm. In severe cases, the condition can be fatal, so if you notice any issues with blood in your pet’s stool, you should contact Clyde Veterinary Hospital immediately for an urgent diagnosis.
When Is Tick Season in Melbourne?
While it varies from year to year the spring weather kicks in around September each year is generally regarded as the beginning of ‘tick season’ in Melbourne, but adult ticks can be active all year round, so you should be constantly on your guard, especially if your dog makes any visits to rural or forested areas.
What is Tick Paralysis?
Tick-bite paralysis is caused by a toxin that is released through the saliva of certain species of female tick and which is injected into the animal’s blood when the tick bites the skin of the dog. The toxin directly affects the nervous system, leading to a combination of nervous symptoms in the affected animal. Your pet does not need to be severely infested with ticks – a single bite can be enough to cause tick paralysis.
What are the Symptoms of Tick Paralysis?
The common symptoms of tick paralysis in dogs and cats are gradual and incremental in nature. The stages commonly include vomiting, regurgitation, unsteadiness on their feet, high blood pressure, excessive drooling, dilated pupils, increased heart rate and rhythm (tachyarrhythmias), weakness – especially in the hind legs, followed by partial loss of muscle movements (paresis), then complete loss of muscle movement (paralysis) and asphyxia due to respiratory muscle paralysis in severely affected animals. Symptoms usually begin to appear around 6-9 days after a tick has attached to the animal’s skin. Because the disease can progress quickly, animals showing any of these symptoms – particularly more severe ones, should be brought in for a complete check-up as soon as possible.
Should I Have My Dog or Cat Protected Against Ticks?
Tick paralysis is one of the most common preventable causes of death in dogs and cats along the east coast of Australia. Some 10,000 dogs are affected each year, 5% of them fatally, with the remainder experiencing in most cases severe discomfort. Treatment for tick paralysis once infested can be extremely expensive – up to A$10,000 in some cases – making a tick prevention regime an extremely good investment. If your dog or cat has any regular exposure to rural or forested environments you should definitely have them protected against ticks. Preventative treatments for ticks are also usually effective against fleas also, providing an extra dimension of protection for your pet.