Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that may result in heart failure, lung disease and damage to other internal organs resulting in death for Clovis dogs, cats and ferrets. Here, our veterinary team explains why prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets, may become what is called a definitive host. This means that worms live within the animal, mature into adults, mate and then produce offspring to start to cycle all over again. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in your pet's lungs, blood vessels and heart.
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 is able to complete blood tests in order to detect heartworm proteins (also called antigens) that are released into your pet's bloodstream These proteins aren't detectable until five months after initial infection at the absolute earliest.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to remember that the treatment for heartworm disease may cause health complications for your pet itself. The medications used to treat heartworms ar every harsh on your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is very expensive since it require multiple visits to your vet's office, injections, blood tests, X-rays and more. Because of this, we are convinced that the bets treatment for heartworms is prevention.
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.
The prevention of heartworm disease is much safer, easier and more affordable than treatment of the disease in its progressed state. A number of heartworm preventive medications may also help to protect your pet against common parasites like roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.