Heartworm disease is a dangerous condition that could lead to severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs, and possibly death for cats and dogs. Today our veterinary team in Knightdale discusses the reasons why it's important to prevent your pet from developing heartworm.
Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites and is generally caused by Dirofilaria immitis, which is a parasitic worm.
Dogs, cats, and ferrets are the pets that are most commonly infected and become the definitive hosts of heartworms. This means that the worms live inside the animal, grow up to be adults, mate, and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected animal.
The Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
The symptoms of heartworm disease don't generally appear until the condition has advanced. The symptoms of heartworm disease we most often see include a swollen abdomen, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.
How Our Vets Test Pets for Heartworms
Your vet is able to conduct blood tests to find heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the bloodstream of infected animals. Heartworm proteins can't be found until roughly five months (at the earliest) after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What Happens When Pets are Diagnosed with Heartworm
Remember that the treatments for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your cat or dog's body. Not only that but treating heartworms is expensive because it consists of multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, hospitalization, X-rays and a series of injections. This is why we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
Although, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will have options for treatment 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 to Prevent Your Pet From Getting Heartworm Disease
You must keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we highly suggest having your cat or dog tested for heartworms every year.
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.