Heartworm disease can cause lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs in your pet's body and even death, making it a serious health condition for animals in Novato. Our vets at South Novato Animal Hospital usually see this condition in cats, dogs and ferrets. Today these knowledgable veterinarians explain how prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis and it is spread through mosquito bites.
These worms live inside animals and then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because these worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet. Pets such as cats, ferrets and dogs can become their definitives hosts.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
You wont usually see symptoms of heartworm disease until it has 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 conduct blood tests to find heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until at least after five months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Remeber that treatment for heartworm disease can have serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. Treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. This is why our vets say prevention is the absolute best method of heartworm disease treatment.
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 essential to keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. We suggest having dogs tested for heartworms annually even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A range of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect your pet against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.