Heartworm disease is a serious, often fatal, condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, and damage to other organs for pets in Hoquiam. In today's post, our vets explain why prevention is essential when it comes to heartworms.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis which is spread primarily through mosquito bites.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets may become definitive hosts, which means that the worms mature into adults, mate and produce offspring while living inside of the pet. 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?
Sadly, 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?
If your pet is believed to have contracted heartworm disease, 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?
It is important for pet parents to understand that the treatment for heartworm disease can 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, our vets recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. And an added bonus of heartworm prevention medications is that many can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.