Heartworm disease should not be taken lightly, it can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs, and even death for Kittrell pets. This is a disease that is commonly found in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Our vets explain why prevention is the best course of action for this deadly disease.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread by mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets including dogs, cats, and ferrets can then become definitive hosts, meaning that worms live inside the animal, then mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. We call this serious condition heartworm disease because these worms make their home inside the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
You won't typically be able to notice the symptoms of heart disease until the disease has reached advanced stages. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and weight loss.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can perform simple blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), released into the bloodstream. However, these proteins aren't detectable until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?
Keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and be 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 we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for 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?
Keeping your pet on preventing medications is incredibly important to preventing heartworm disease in the first place. Even if they are on preventive heartworm medication, our Kittrell vets recommend annual heartworm testing.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A number of medications designed to prevent heartworm can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.