Heartworm disease is a serious condition in pets that can result in heart failure, lung disease, damage to organs and even death for pets in the Somerset area. This disease is usually found in dogs, cats and ferrets. Here, our vets explain why the prevention of this disease is so important.
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, meaning that worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, mate and the produce offspring. We call this serious condition heartworm disease since the worms live in an infected animal's lungs, blood vessels and heart.
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 vet is able to complete blood tests in order to detect heartworm proteins that the parasites release into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't generally be detected until at least 5 months after infection from a mosquito bite.
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 being said, you will have treatment options available to you if your pet is infected with heartworm disease. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is approved by the FDA and contains arsenic, killing adult heartworms. This treatment is administered by injection into your pet's back muscles in order to treat their condition.
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.
Preventing heartworm disease is easier, safer and much more affordable than treating the disease in its progressed state. A number of heartworm preventative medications can also help to protect against other parasites like whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.