Heartworm disease is a dangerous conditions which can cause heart failure, lung disease, damage to organs and even death for Tucson pets. This conditiosn is generally found in cats, dogs and ferrets. Here, our veterinary team explains why prevention is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pet, including dogs, cats and ferrets, may become what is called a definitive host. This means that the parasites live within the animal, mature into adults, mate and the produce offspring. This serious conditions is called heartworm disease because the worms live in an infected pet's heart, blood vessels and lungs.
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 is able to complete blood tests in order to detect heartworm proteins (also known as antigens) which the worms release into an animal's bloodstream. These proteins can't be detected until 5 months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito, though.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to know that the treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications of its own, and potentially even be toxic to your pet's body. On top of that,. treatment can be expensive. It generally requires multiple veterinary visits, bloodwork, injections, x-rays, hospitalizations and more. Because of this, our vets advise all of our clients that prevention is the best treatment for heartworms.
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 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.