Heartworm disease is a serious condition in pets which can result in heart failure, lung disease, damage to organs and even death in dogs, cats and ferrets in South Plainfield. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key to treating this disease.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets, may become what is called a definitive host. This means that the heartworms live inside their body, mature into adults, mate and the produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the parasites live in an infected animals lungs, blood vessels and heart.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Generally, symptoms of heartworm disease generally don't appear until it is in its advanced stages. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include a swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to remember that heartworm disease can cause serious complications for your pet and even be toxic to their body. Not only that, but the treatment is expensive, since it requires multiple visits to the veterinarain, hospitalization, bloodwork and x-rays. Because of this, we say prevention is the best treatment for 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 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.