In Grayson, heartworm disease is a serious condition that can cause heart failure, severe lung disease, organ damage, and even death in pets. Cats, dogs, and ferrets are the most common carriers of the disease. Our veterinarians explain why prevention is so important.
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 the worms live inside the animal, mature, mate, and produce offspring. Because the worms live in an infected pet's heart, lungs, and blood vessels, we call this serious condition heartworm disease.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease symptoms usually don't appear until the disease has progressed. Swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of heartworm disease.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your veterinarian can perform blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens) that are released into the bloodstream of the animal. Heartworm proteins aren't detectable for at least five months after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?
Keep in mind that heartworm disease treatment can have serious side effects and can be toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is costly due to the numerous visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays, and injections required. This is why we believe that the best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention.
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that has been approved by the FDA. Adult heartworms are killed by it. In order to treat the disease, melarsomine dihydrochloride will be injected into your pet's back muscles.
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?
To avoid heartworm disease, it's critical to keep your pet on preventive medication. We recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms every year, even if they are already on heartworm prevention medication.
Heartworm prevention is much safer, easier, and less expensive than treating the disease once it has progressed. Other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms can be protected by a number of heartworm preventive medications.