The serious condition heartworm disease can lead to heart failure, severe lung disease, organ damage and even death for pets in Parrish. This disease is typically found in cats and dogs. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Primarily caused by a parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets can become definitive hosts, meaning that worms live inside the animal they attack, mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is referred to as heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Typically, symptoms of heartworms disease won't appear until the disease has advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, weight loss, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen and fatigue.
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?
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.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.