Heartworm disease is a serious conditions which can cause heart and lung failure as well as damage to other organs in your pet. This disease is generally found in ferrets, dogs and cats in Maury County and 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 dirogilaria immitis.
Dogs, cats and ferrets can become what is called a definitive host. This means that the heartworms live within the creature, mature into adults, mate and have offspring. This serious conditions is referred to as heartworm disease because these parasites live in animals' heart, blood vessels and lungs.
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 conduct blood tests in order to detect heartworm proteins (also called antigens). The parasites release these into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm antigens cannot be detected, however, until about 5 months 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 heartworm disease may cause serious complications for your pet and potentially be toxic. Not only that, but since this treatment involves multiple visit to the vet, hospitalization, injections, bloodwork and diagnostic tests, it can be quite expensive. Because of this, we advise all of our clients that prevention is their best bet for treating 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.