Heartworm disease is a potentially deadly condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, and damage to other organs for pets in Argyle. This condition can be found in cats, dogs and ferrets. Today, our vets explain why prevention is better than treatment for heartworm disease.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets can become definitive hosts, meaning that the worms live inside the animal where they mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is known as heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
One of the reasons that heartworm disease is so deadly is that symptoms do not appear until the worms are established and the disease is advanced. Symptoms of advanced heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How will my vet test my pet for heartworms?
Your vet will 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?
Pet owners need to be aware that the 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.
Nonetheless, 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 to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
How can heartworm disease be prevented?
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. An added bonus is that a number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.