Heartworm disease is a quite serious condition that may result in heart failure, organ damage, severe lung disease, and even death in dogs, cats, and ferrets in the Douglasville area. Here, our vets explain why the prevention of this serious condition is critical.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Pets, including cats, dogs, ferrets, and others, may become what is called a definitive host for heartworms. This means that the worms live inside the animal, mature into an adult, mate, and then produce offspring. This serious condition is referred to as heartworm disease since the worms live in your pet's 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 complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins that are released into your pet's bloodstream. The proteins from heartworms can't be detected until about 5 months (at the very earliest) after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease?
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.
With all of that being said, if your pet has been diagnosed with heartworms, our vets will be able to provide treatment options. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an FDA-approved drug that can treat heartworms but contains arsenic. 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.