Heartworm disease is a serious condition which can cause a range of severe diseases in your pet, from heart failure, to lung disease and even death. This diseases is most often found in dogs, ferrets and cats in the Avon area. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets like cats, ferrets and dogs can become definitive hosts of these parasites. This means that the worms live inside the animal, mate and then produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the blood, lungs and heart of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease usually don't appear in a pet until the disease reaches an advanced stage. The most common of these symptoms are fatigue, coughing, a swollen abdomen, difficulty breathing and weight loss.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can complete a blood test to try and find heartworm proteins, which the parasites' release into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until 5 months after infection by mosquito bite.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It is important to remember that heartworm disease's treatments can cause serious complications and possibly toxic to your pet. Treatment also involves hospitalization, multiple veterinary visits, bloodwork, x-rays and a series of injections., because of this, heartworm disease can be expensive to treat. Prevention is the absolute best way to fight 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 key that you keep your pet on preventative medicine in order to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventative heartworm medication, we recommend that you pet be tested annually for heartworm.
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.