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Risk of heartworm infection not for your dog alone

Heartworm disease problem year-round for your dogs, cats

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Many people are surprised to find out that their friendly felines are also at risk, but according to the Pet Alliance of Orlando they are just as likely to contract heartworms as their canine companions.

According to the PAO, heartworm disease is caused by a parasite, a type of roundworm that lives inside the heart and blood vessels of the lungs. It's transmitted by mosquitoes and is a serious disease the affects the heart and lungs, but can also affects the liver, kidney, eye and central nervous system, if untreated, can cause death.

Symptoms are subtle and easy to miss, but as the number of heartworms increase, the symptoms of coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, lack of appetite and weight loss become more apparent.  It's best not to wait until symptoms appear since irreversible damage can occur by then.

Found in all 50 states, it is more prevalent in the southeast. The American Heartworm Society says that heartworm infections are increasing across the U.S. In Central Florida, Orange County Animal Services is reporting 80 percent increase in positive dogs entering its animal shelter.

It was once believed that cats were resistant to heartworms, but recent studies have shown that this is not the case. Any animal can be bitten by an infected mosquito. There is no approved heartworm treatment for cats so prevention is the only answer.

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