Heartworm disease is a condition that can cause a number of serious heath problems ranging from organ damage, heart failure, lung disease and even death. This disease is typically found in dogs, ferrets and cats in the Gilbert area. Here, our vets explain why prevention of this dangerous disease is so important.
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, dogs and ferrets are able to become what is known as a definitive host. This means that this worm can live, mature, mate and produce offspring all inside the animal. This serious condition is referred to as heartworm disease because the worms live in your pet's heart, blood vessels and lungs.
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, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet is able to complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins, which the parasites release into your pet's. However, these proteins aren't detectable until five months or longer after you pet is infected by a mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
The treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and even be toxic to your pet. It is also expensive, since it requires multiple visits to the vet, hospitalization, x-rays, bloodwork and a series of injections. Because of all of this, prevention is considered to be the best way to combat 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 very important to give your pet preventative heartworm medicine and maintain it, Even if they are already on preventative treatments, we still recommend that dogs be treated for heartworm every year.
It is much safer, easier, and less expensive to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it once your pet can been infected, A number of preventative medications for heartworm actually help to protect against other parasites like whipworm, hookworms and roundworms as well.