Heartworm disease can cause damage to your pet's organs, severe lung disease, heart failure, and potentially death, which makes it a serious condition. In this blog, our Houston County vets explain why it's essential to protect your pet from getting heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is transmitted when an animal is bitten by a mosquito that is infected with a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets such as ferrets, cats, and dogs can become the hosts of these parasites, which means the worms live inside them and mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. This severe condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the animals they infect.
The Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
If your cat or dog is infected with heartworms they probably won't display any symptoms until their condition has become more advanced. The symptoms of heartworm disease that our vets see most often include fatigue, coughing, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, and weight loss.
Diagnosing Pets with 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.
When Pets are Diagnosed with Heartworms
You need to understand that the treatments for heartworm disease could cause serious complications and is potentially toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, X-rays, and a series of injections. This is why our team is always saying that prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, if your furry companion is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your veterinarian will provide you with treatment options. 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 to Protect Your Pet from Heartworms
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.
It's safer, easier, and more affordable to prevent heartworm disease than it is to treat it once it becomes advanced. A handful of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.