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Heartworm (Dirofilaria Immitis)

Heartworm live in the arteries and hearts of infected animals. They release larvae into their hosts’ bloodstream. When a mosquito feeds on the infected animal the larvae present in the blood are swallowed by the mosquito. These larvae are then passed via their saliva to the next animal they feed from, for example your dog or cat.

Once the larvae enter your pet, they will develop and migrate over several months to their heart. In severe cases they may clog up the right side of the heart. Dogs in particular are affected and signs can take months to develop depending on the severity of the infection.

Symptoms may include:

  • excessive panting
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • being easily tired following exercise
  • heart failure
  • death if left untreated

As a mosquito is required for the lifecycle to be completed dogs and cats in this country are at little risk of contracting heartworm.

Mosquitos easily spread heartworm and you should consider this risk when thinking of travelling with your pet. You should always protect your pet against heartworm when travelling abroad. As heartworm infection can be fatal please consult your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse before travelling with your pet as there are products available to help prevent heartworm.

Cinque Ports Vets run FREE Travel Clinics to help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active.  Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

To check which parasites your pet may be exposed to, log on to www.esccapuk.org.uk and under the ‘Travelling Pets’ section you will find European parasite distribution maps. These maps are designed to help inform you of the parasitic threats present in different countries.

Hookworms, Whipworms and Heartworms

Hookworms
Hookworms are not a major problem in the UK although they can occur occasionally. The larvae burrow into your pet’s skin usually through their feet or they are ingested by pets cleaning their paws. Puppies and kittens can be infected via their mother’s milk. Cats can get hookworm from contaminated soil or infected rodents. The hookworm live off your pet’s blood and can cause diarrhoea, lethargy and weight loss. Despite being very small, they suck large amounts of blood from the tiny vessels in your pet’s intestinal wall and can cause anaemia in large numbers.  Infection in humans is very rare, but may cause skin disease where they try and penetrate the skin.

Whipworms

Whipworms eggs are shed into the environment in the faeces of infected dogs. The worms live in the large intestine of your dog where they cause severe irritation to their intestinal lining. This results in watery, bloody diarrhoea, weight loss and general ill health.  They can be very harmful in large numbers. They are not infectious to people.   Most of the broad-spectrum worm remedies available from your veterinary practice are effective against hookworms and whipworms.  Control and prevention is the same as for roundworms and tapeworms. 

Heartworm
Heartworm live in the arteries and hearts of infected animals. They release larvae into their hosts’ bloodstream. When a mosquito feeds on the infected animal the larvae present in the blood are swallowed by the mosquito. These larvae are then passed via their saliva to the next animal they feed from, for example your dog or cat. As a mosquito is required for the lifecycle to be completed dogs and cats in this country are at little risk of   contracting heartworm. Mosquitos easily spread heartworm and you should consider this risk when thinking of travelling with your pet. The risk of heartworm varies depending on where you intend to travel. As heartworm infection can be fatal please consult your veterinary surgeon before travelling with your pet as there are products available to help prevent heartworm.

Cinque Ports Vets run Travel Clinics to help offer advice on protecting your pet from parasites when travelling abroad. Dogs in particular are affected and signs can take months to develop. These include, excessive panting, weight loss, difficulty breathing, being easily tired following exercise and death if left untreated. To check which parasites your pet may be exposed to, log on to www.esccapuk.org.uk and under the ‘Travelling Pets’ section you will find European parasite distribution maps. These maps are designed to help inform you of the parasitic threats present in different countries.

Myxomatosis In Rabbits

Your rabbit should be protected against two major diseases called Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (both strains). These can be potentially fatal.

Myxomatosis is a widespread disease caused by a virus. All types of rabbit are potentially susceptible, including house rabbits.

The disease is spread by blood- sucking insects such as the rabbit flea and mosquitoes. When an infected insect bites a rabbit, a small amount of the virus is placed in their skin as the insect feeds. Within a few days the virus passes into the rabbit’s blood spreading it to several sites. The virus mainly multiplies in the skin around the eyes, nose, face, skin inside their ears and around the anus and genitalia areas. It is best to try and prevent your rabbit from coming into contact with wild rabbits as they tend to carry a lot of fleas and can themselves be infected.

Generally the first sign of infection that you will notice are puffy eyes, lips and ears as well as swellings around their genitalia. Within 24 hours these swellings can become very severe, eating and drinking becomes more difficult and unfortunately death usually occurs within 2 weeks of infection. Some rabbits do survive the disease with intensive nursing but they are usually left with severe scarring and scabs over their body.

There is no specific treatment for Myxomatosis so it is vital that you ensure your rabbit is protected against it.

The most effective way to do this is by flea and insect control and vaccination.

Spot on treatments are available to protect your rabbit against fleas and nets over their hutches will help with mosquito control.

The vaccination against both Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease can be given from 5 weeks of age, with booster vaccinations given annually and it offers the best possible chance of immunity.