Heartworm disease is a dangerous disease that can cause heart failure, damage to other organs, severe lung disease, and even death in Alpharetta pets. This parasitic disease is typically seen in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Our vets are here to explain why prevention is of the utmost importance with this disease.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through bites from infected mosquitos and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.
Common pests such as cats, dogs, and ferrets can become definitive hosts, meaning that the worms live inside your pet's body, mature into adults, mate, and then produce offspring of their own. We call this life-threatening disease heartworm because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets.
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 heartworm?
Keep in mind that 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, blood work, 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 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.
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.