Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to other organs and even death for pets in Rockland County. The disease is typically found in cats, dogs and ferrets. Here, our vets explain 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.
Dogs, cats, and ferrets can become definitive hosts, which means that worms mature into adults, mate, and generate offspring while living inside the animal.
Because the worms live in an infected pet's heart, lungs, and blood vessels, we call this deadly ailment heartworm disease.
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
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your veterinarian can do blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens) that are secreted into the circulation of the animal. Heartworm proteins aren't detectable for at least five months after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's worth noting that heartworm disease treatment might have major side effects and can be harmful to your pet's health. Not only that, but treatment is costly because of the numerous trips to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays, and injections. This is why, when it comes to heartworm illness, prevention is the best treatment.
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing medication that has been approved by the FDA. Adult heartworms are killed by it. To treat the ailment, melarsomine dihydrochloride will be injected into your pet's back muscles.
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.
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.