Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease that affects dogs across the United States. It's caused by parasitic worms transmitted through the bite of a mosquito carrying these worms. Then, they live in your dog's heart, lungs and blood vessels. Here, our Avon vets share some information you should be aware of to protect your beloved pup.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a term for a blood-borne parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm disease in dogs occurs all over the world. There are more than thirty different kinds of mosquitos that are capable of transmitting heartworms to your pooch.
If your dog is bitten by a mosquito that is carrying these worms, they will mature into adults, mate, produce offspring and start the whole cycle again in your pet's heart. This disease leads to heart and lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs?
In the disease's earliest stages, many dogs show very few symptoms or no symptoms at all. As heartworm disease progresses, symptoms may include difficulty breathing, fatigue after moderate activity ,a decrease in appetite and loss of weight.
In later stages of heartworm disease, your pup may develop heart failure. You may also notice the appearance of a swollen belly caused by a buildup of excess fluid in a dog's abdomen.
How is heartworm disease detected?
Your vet will run blood tests that can detect proteins released by heartworms in your dog's bloodstream. The earliest that the heartworm proteins can be detected is about 5 months after the pet has become infected.
Because of this, it's advised that your dog be tested for heartworm every year in addition to taking heartworm preventative treatments all year long. Our Animal General vets strongly believe that prevention is far and away the best treatment when it comes to heartworm disease.
What are the treatment options for heartworm disease?
There are a number of treatments available to your pup if they are diagnosed with heartworm disease and your veterinarian will be able to help you choose which will be right for your pup.
Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is injected into the pet's back muscles to treat heartworms. This drug is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in pets.
There are alternative treatments though too. FDA-approved topical treatments can be applied to your dog's skin to help kill the parasites in your pet's bloodstream.
It's important to remember that the treatments for a dog that has already contracted heartworm disease can hard on their body and potentially even toxic to them.
As well, since treatment involves many visits to your vet, potential hospitalizations, injections, blood tests, x-rays and more, the treatment of heartworm after your dog has developed it can be very expensive too.
How can I prevent my dog from getting heartworm disease?
Preventative medications are available from your vet in order to stop heartworm from developing in the first place in your pup. Annual blood tests for heartworm are also recommended, even if your dog is also taking heartworm preventative medications.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the disease. The prevention treatment may also protect your pet against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
COntact your Avon vets to book your pup's annual heartworm preventative appointment.