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April is National Heartworm Awareness Month and by protecting dogs, we can also protect ourselves from the heartache that can come from the loss of a canine companion or the expensive and difficult treatment due to this preventable health issue.

Heartworms are roundworms which embed themselves in a pet’s heart, lungs or blood vessels. They cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body.

Dogs are the natural host for these worms. Cats are not a normal host for heartworms. Since most worms do not reach the adult stage in cats, heartworm disease is often undiagnosed and cats do not always show symptoms of an infestation.

However, even immature worms can cause damage known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). 

Heartworm is passed from host to host by the mosquito. It only takes one small bite from the insect and the parasite can enter a pet’s bloodstream. 

Signs of heartworm disease may include nagging cough, disinterest in eating, weight loss, indifference to playtime and loss of energy. As the disease progresses, pets may have heart failure and swollen abdomen due to the excess fluid from the heart.

The best way to prevent heartworm problems is to get your dog tested yearly and give them a monthly preventative. The Humane Society of Rome heartworm tests all dogs in their care before they are adopted out to their new families. 

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