Heartworm disease is a dangerous condition that can cause heart failure, damage to organs, lung disease and even death in Gibsons pets. This disease is most often found in dogs, cats, and ferrets and our vets here explain why prevention is most important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.
Pets including cats, ferrets and dogs can all become definitive hosts, meaning that these parasites can live inside the animal. This means that the heartworms mature into adults, mate and then produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because these worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of your pet.
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 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.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease might cause complications or be toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is quite expensive. It requires bloodwork, multiple veterinary visits, hospitalization, injections and x-rays. Because of this, we say that prevention is absolutely the best treatment for the disease.
That being said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your vet will be able to provide you with a number of 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 can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
It's very important to keep your pet on preventative medication for heartworm disease. Even if your pet is already being treated for heartworm disease, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
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.