Heartworm disease is a quite serious condition that can cause heart failure, lung disease and damage to other organs in your pet's body, potentially even resulting in death. This disease is most often found in dogs, cats and ferrets. Read on for an explanation from our South Lebanon vets about why prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets, may become what is called a definitive host for these parasites. This means that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, produce offspring and start the cycle over again. This condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in your pet's heart, lungs and blood vessels.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
The symptoms of heartworm disease generally don't appear until it has reached a more advanced stage. The most commonly found symptoms include coughing, fatigue weight loss, difficulty breathing and a swollen abdomen.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important for you to remember that heartworm disease treatments may be potentially toxic to your pet and cause serious complications of their own. Not only that, but treatment can be quite expensive since it requires multiple visits to your vte, injections, blood tests, x-rays and hospitalizations through the treatment process. Because of this, prevention is absolutely the best treatment for this illness.
That said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic. It kills adult heartworms. Melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered via injection into your pet's back muscles in order to treat the disease.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available. These can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
It's important to keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
Heartworm prevention is far safer, easier and more affordable than treating the disease in its progressed state. A number of different preventive medications can also help to protect you against other parasites like whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.