Heartworm disease is a serious condition that may result in heart failure, lung disease and damage to other organs or death in pets in the Carrollton area. This disease is generally found in dogs, ferrets and cats. Here, our vets explain why prevention is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Pets like cats, ferrets and dogs may become what is called a definitive host, meaning that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, mate and then produce offspring the begin the cycle again. The condition is called heartworm disease since the worms live in the lungs, heart and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your veterinarian will be able to complete a blood test in order to detect the antigens of heartworms that are released into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins won't be detectable until at least 5 months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. This is why we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
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.
The prevention of heartworm disease is much more affordable, safer and easier than treating the disease once it has progressed. A number of heartworm preventive medications will also be able to help protect against other parasites like whipworms, roundworms and hookworms.