Heartworm disease is a serious parasite-borne condition that can impact your pet's health, resulting in heart failure, lung disease and even death for dogs, cats or ferrets in the Capitola area. Here, our vets explain why the prevention of this disease is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Mosquitos spread heartworm disease through their bites, passing a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis to your pet.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets may 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 the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
The symptoms of heartworm disease generally don't appear until the disease reaches an advanced stage. The most commonly found symptoms of heartworm disease range from coughing and fatigue to weight loss, a swollen abdomen and difficulty breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet is able to complete a test of your pet's blood in order to detect heartworm proteins, also called antigens, which are released into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about 5 months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito, at the earliest.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
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.
All of that being said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, you will have treatment options available to you. The FDA-approve drug melarsomine diydrchloride contains arsenic and is able to kill adult heartworms infecting your pet's body. Melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered through an 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 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.
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.