Heartworm disease is a condition that can result in serious damage to your pet's lung or other organs, heart failure, and possibly even death. This disease is most often found in dogs, cats and ferrets. Our Johns Creek vets explain why prevention of this disease is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a caused by a parasite named dirogilaria immitis. The parasite is spread primarily through mosquito bites.
The parasitic worms can live, mature, and reproduce inside hosts like dogs, cats and ferrets. This condition is called "heartworm disease" because the worms livein the blood vessels, heart and lungs of their host.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease symptoms typically manifest when the disease is in the advanced stages. 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 identify heartworm disease by testing your pets blood for the worms' proteins (also known as antigens). Heartworm proteins, however, can't be detected until as early as 5 months after your pet's initial infection through a mosquito bite.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Heartworm disease treatment can cause serious complications itself. The treatment is also expensive because it can require multiple veterinary visits, hospitalization, blood work, a series of injections and x-rays. Because of this, prevention is your best bet for dealing with heartworm disease.
That being said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, there will be treatment options available to you. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic and is able to kill adult heartworms. Melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered on your pet's back muscles in order to treat the disease.
There are also FDA-approved topical treatments 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.