Heartworm disease can be a very serious condition that can cause heart failure, damage to organs and lung failure for pets in Torrance and Carson. The disease is typically found in cats and dogs. 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 dirogilaria immitis.
Cat's ferrets and dogs can become what is called a definitive host of these parasites. This means that the parasites live inside the animal, mature, mate and reproduce. We call this serious condition heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease will often manifest only when the disease has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, a swollen abdomen, weight loss, fatigue 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?
Keep in mind that while treatments are available for heartworm disease, it can cause serious complications and be toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but the treatment can also be expensive and requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, hospitalization, x-rays, a series of injections and blood work. This is why we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease you will have a few different treatment options available to you. 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 animal's skin.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
It is very important to keep your pet on regular preventative medication for heartworm disease. If they are already on preventative heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworms.
Prevention of heartworm disease is safer, more affordable and much easier than treating the disease once it has progressed. A number of preventative medications which treat heartworm also protect your pet against a number of other parasites such as whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.