Heartworm disease is a dangerous condition which can result in serious lung disease and damage to organs like your pet's heart. If not prevented or caught, this condition can even result in death for pets in the Sechelt area. Here, our vets explain why prevention of this serious disease in cats, dogs and ferrets is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through the bites of infected mosquitos, transferring a parasitic worm to your pet called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets like cats, dogs and ferrets may become definitive hosts. This means that the worms live inside the animal, mature in adulthood and then mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm diseases because the worms live in your pet's heart, lungs and blood vessels.
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 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's important to remember that the treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and even be toxic to your pet's body. Not only this, but treatment is also expensive. It requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, hospitalization, x-rays, bloodwork and a number of injections. Because of this, we believe that prevention is the absolute best way to treat heartworm disease.
That being said, in the unfortunate event that your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your vet will have a number of different treatment options available. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an FDA-approved drug that contain 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 incredibly important to keep your pet on preventative medication to guard against heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventative heartworm medication, we also recommend that dogs are tested for heartworm every year.
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.