Heartworm disease is a serious illness that can cause heart failure, lung disease, damage to internal organs and even death for pets in the Rock Springs are. This disease is generally found in dogs, cats and ferrets. 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.
Animals like cats, dogs and ferrets may become what is called a definitive host, meaning that these worms live inside the animals, mature into adults, mate and produce more offspring to start the cycle over again. This serious condition is called heartworm since the parasites live in the blood vessels, heart and lungs of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
The symptoms of heartworm disease generally don't appear until the disease has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease including a swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, rapid weight loss and difficulty breathing.
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 to remember that the treatment for developed heartworm disease may cause serious complications of its own or become toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but these treatments are also expensive since they require multiple veterinary visits, hospitalization, bloodwork, 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.
Topically applied solutions are also available and approved by the FDA. These can help to eliminate these parasites from your pet's bloodstream when applied directly to your 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 easier, safer and much more affordable than treatment for the disease in its progressed state. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help to protect against other parasites like whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.