Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to other organs and even death for pets in Springfield. The disease is typically found in cats, dogs and ferrets. 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 Dirofilaria immitis.
Dogs, cats, and ferrets can become definitive hosts, which means that worms remain within the animal, grow into adults, mate, and create offspring. Because the worms reside in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected pet, we name this severe disorder heartworm disease.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced.
The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include:
- Swollen abdomen
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing, fatigue
- Weight loss
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 are not detectable until approximately five months (at the most) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
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.
Keep in mind that heartworm disease treatment can lead to significant problems and is possibly harmful to your pet's body. Not only that, but therapy is costly since it necessitates several veterinary visits, bloodwork, hospitalization, X-rays, and a series of injections. This is why we believe that the best therapy for heartworm illness is prevention.
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 significantly safer, simpler, and less expensive than treating the condition once it has developed. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.