Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can cause a wide variety of serious health issues, from heart failure to lung disease in Cincinnati pets. This disease is often found in ferrets, dogs and cats. Here, our vets explain why prevention is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets, including dogs, cats and ferrets, can become what is called definitive host. This means that the heartworms live inside the animal, mature into adulthood, mate and then produce offspring all within their body. The condition I called heartworm disease since the parasites thrive in animals' hearts, blood vessels and lungs.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease don't generally appear until the disease has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptoms of this disease include 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?
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?
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 far easier, safer and more affordable than treating the disease at an advanced stage. A number of heartworm preventative medications can also help to protect your pet against parasites like hookworms, roundowrms and whipworms.