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Dear Media Professional:

Heartworm disease is a serious canine and feline health concern that threatens animals in all 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, as well as throughout the temperate regions of the world. Heartworms are spread from animal to animal by mosquitoes and live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected animals. The disease can lead to heart failure, as well as damage to other organs.

For both dogs and cats, clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be apparent in the early stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months, and sometimes years.

Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Respiratory signs are often mistaken for feline asthma or allergic bronchitis, when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs such as persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue, reduced appetite and weight loss.

Although heartworm disease can be deadly, it is completely preventable with several products currently available through veterinarians. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) urges pet owners to take steps now to protect their pets from this dangerous and potentially deadly disease.

The AHS provides continuously updated information about heartworm disease, its treatment and diagnosis, and how pet owners can prevent heartworm infection in their pets.

AHS board members are available for interviews. Please contact Lea-Ann Germinder, APR, [email protected] , at 816-822-0192.

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