Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can cause heart failure, severe lung disease, organ damage, and even death in Hermitage pets. Cats, dogs, and ferrets are the most common carriers of the disease. Our veterinarians explain why prevention is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic worm that causes heartworm disease, is spread by mosquito bites.
There are worms that can become definitive hosts in dogs, cats, and ferrets, which means that they live inside the animal and grow into adults before mating and producing offspring. Heartworm disease is so named because the worms live in the pet's heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease typically does not manifest symptoms until the disease has progressed. Swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of heartworm disease.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your veterinarian can perform blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens). Heartworm proteins aren't detectable until five months after a mosquito bite.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?
Keep in mind that heartworm disease treatment can have serious side effects and can be toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is costly due to the numerous visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays, and injections required. This is why we believe that the best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention.
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that has been approved by the FDA. Adult heartworms are killed by it. In order to treat the disease, melarsomine dihydrochloride will be injected into your pet's back muscles.
FDA-approved topical solutions are also available. When applied directly to the animal's skin, these can aid in the removal of parasites from the bloodstream.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
To prevent heartworm disease, it is critical to keep your pet on preventive medication. We recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually, even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication.
Heartworm prevention is much safer, easier, and less expensive than treating the disease once it has progressed. A variety of heartworm prevention medications can also help protect against other parasites like hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.