Heartworm has been diagnosed in dogs in all parts of the world and is actually very common. This may be due to the fact that heartworm has a virtual 100% prevalence rate in unprotected dogs living in highly endemic areas. Heartworm, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito injects a microscopic larvae which grows into an adult worm six to eighteen inches long inside the heart of the affected dog.
The worms can cause mild symptoms, such as coughing, but with time, more severe symptoms such as congestive heart failure, weight loss, fluid build up in the abdomen, fainting spells, anemia, collapse, and death usually occur.
Luckily we have several excellent medications which can prevent heartworm if given as directed. There are oral medications which need to be given monthly, and which also help protect against some intestinal parasites. There is one topical medication which is also applied monthly. An injectable medication, ProHeart, which is administered every six months, is back on the market after being withdrawn for several years.
Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Testing (FELV/FIV Combo test):
Like the AIDS virus, FeLV and FIV hinder the host's immune system, making the cat more susceptible to common infections. Feline Leukemia is associated with more illnesses and deaths of cats than any other infectious agent. Although not actually a cancer, it can cause several types of cancer in your cat. FeLV is considered a "social contact" disease generally spread through intimate contact between cats, such as grooming or sharing water bowls. Pregnant or nursing cats can pass the virus on to their kittens as well. Studies estimate the prevalence of FeLV in the United States at two to three percent of the cat population, meaning that 1.5 to 2.5 million cats carry and spread the virus.
The FIV virus is less prevalent but still may infect almost one million cats in North America. Typically spread by fighting, FIV virus is caused by bite wounds between unfriendly cats. However, It should be noted that neither disease is spread from cats to people.
Cats carrying either of these viruses may not show any signs of illness. In fact, due to the ability of these viruses to hide in the cat's cells, many cats can go years without any apparent symptoms. This can be a problem when new cats are introduced into the household, or if your cat ventures from home for a few days. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends testing cats routinely. Testing is considered the mainstay of preventing transmission of both diseases. Any sick cat should be tested, regardless of any negative results from previous testing.