Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that is usually found in dogs, cats and ferrets. This disease can cause heart failure, severe lung disease and damage to other organs, it can even lead to death for your pets. In this blog our Edgewater vets discuss heartworm disease and why preventing it is important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is usually caused by dirogilaria immitis, which is a parasitic worm that is spread through mosquito bites.
Pets such as ferrets, cats and dogs can become their definitive hosts, which means the worms riside inside your pet's body and then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. Veterinarians consider heartworm disease a serious condition because the worms reside in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of infected animals.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Your pet wont usually display any symptoms of heartworm disease until the disease has advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease are weight loss, fatigue, a swollen abdomen and difficulty breathing.
How will my vet check for heartworms in my pet?
Your vet can perform blood tests to look for the heartworm proteins (antigens), that are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be found until approximately five months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito, at the earliest.
What will happen if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Please remember that heartworm disease treatment can cause serious complications and can potentially be toxic to your pet's body. Treatment is also very expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. This is why our vets say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, 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 given through an 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 your pet is already on preventive heartworm medication, we suggest getting dogs tested for heartworms at least once a year.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A vareity of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites including hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.