Heartworm disease is well-known among dog and other pet owners for a reason—it can get serious. Left untreated, heartworm disease can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to other organs, and even death for pets in South Salem. Today, our vets explain why prevention is so important.
Heartworm Disease in Pets
Heartworm disease is primarily caused by a parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, and it spreads via mosquito bites.
Pets including dogs, cats, and ferrets can become 'definitive hosts,', which means that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. We call this condition heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected pet.
Typically, symptoms of heartworm disease aren't noticeable until the disease is advanced. Some common symptoms of heartworm disease are a swollen abdomen, coughing, low energy or fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.
How can you figure out if your pet has heartworm disease? The more surefire way is to visit your veterinarian. 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 should I do if my pet has heartworm disease?
Because treatment for heartworm disease carries challenges such as serious complications and potential toxicity to your pet's body and costs associated with multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections, our advice on the absolute best treatment is simply prevention.
That said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your vet will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic, which 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.
Heartworm disease prevention
Ensuring that your pet is on preventive medication is an effective way to help 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. In addition to preventing heartworm, a number of preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.