Today our Louisa vets discuss heartworm disease in pets. It is a serious condition often found in cats, dogs, and ferrets, causing severe lung damage, heart failure and can even damage other organs.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is often spread through mosquito bites and is generally caused by a parasitic worm known as dirogilaria immitis.
Pets such as cats, dogs, and ferrets can become the hosts and the worms live inside the animal, where they mature into adults, mate, and reproduce. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live and thrive in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets.
The signs and symptoms of heartworm disease
Symptoms of heartworm disease usually don't appear until the disease has advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease are fatigue, coughing, a swollen abdomen, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.
How do vets check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can conduct blood tests to find heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be found until approximately five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by a mosquito that is infected.
What happens when pets are diagnosed with heartworms?
Remember treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. The treatment is also very expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays, and a series of injections. That's why our vets are always saying prevention is the best possible treatment for heartworm disease.
If your animal companion 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 to prevent your pet from getting heartworm disease
It's very important that you keep your pet on preventive medicine to help prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend having dogs tested for heartworms every year.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Various heartworm preventive medications can also help keep your pet safe from other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.