Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can lead to heart failure, lung disease, organ damage and even death for pets in Tracy. The disease is typically found in dogs, ferrets and cats. In today's post, our vets explain why preventing heatworm is essential.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets may become definitive hosts, meaning that the worms live inside of the animal, then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. The name heartworm disease stems from the fact that the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in pets?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically do not appear until the disease is in it's advanced stages. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and breathing difficulties.
How does the veterinarian check for heartworms?
Your vet can do complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the infected animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can be detected no earlier than five months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
How is heartworm disease treated?
It's very important to understand that treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is also expensive since it will require multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. That's why our team believes that when it comes to heartworm disease prevention is the absolute best treatment!
Nonetheless, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug containing arsenic which can be used to kills adult heartworms. Melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered via injection into your pet's back muscles as treatment for the disease.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available to treat heartworm disease. These can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to your pet's skin.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
Keep your pet on year-round preventive medication to protect your animal against heartworm disease. Even if your pet is already on preventive heartworm medication, we also 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.