Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can cause severe damage to your pet's internal organs including their heart and lungs. This disease is generally found in ferrets, dogs and cats in the Egg Harbor Township area. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets like cats, dogs and ferrets can become what is called a definitive host for heartworms, meaning that the worms live inside the animals, mature into adults, reproduce and start the process all over again. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because these parasites live in the blood vessels, heart and lungs of animals.
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 veterinarian will complete blood tests in order to detect heartworm antigens (proteins) that are released into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins aren't able to be detected until as 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, we will have treatment options available to you. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an FDA-approved drug that contains arsenic and 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 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.