If your cat, dog, or ferret has heartworm disease ( which could be a deadly condition) and they aren't treated quickly, they could develop severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs. Today our vets in Fairfield, NJ explain why prevention is essential for protecting your pet from heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites and is most often caused by a parasitic worm known as dirofilaria immitis.
The pets that are most often infected are cats, dogs, and ferrets. They become the definitive hosts of these worms, that live inside them, maturing into adults, mating, and producing offspring. This dangerous condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the animals they infect.
Common Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
Pets usually don't display any symptoms until the condition becomes more advanced. The symptoms of heartworm disease we see most frequently include fatigue, weight loss, a swollen abdomen, coughing, and difficulties breathing.
How Vets Test Pets for Heartworms
Your veterinarian can conduct blood tests to find any heartworm proteins (antigens), that are released into an infected animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be found until at least five months after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What Happens When Your Pet is Diagnosed with Heartworms
Remember that the treatments for heartworm disease can lead to serious complications and are potentially toxic to your pet's body. Also, treatments are very expensive because they require multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, X-rays, and a series of injections. This is why our vets always say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, if your furry friend is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will be able to provide you with treatment options. 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 get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when it's applied directly to your pet's skin.
How to Protect Your Pet from Heartworm Disease
You have to keep your pet on preventive medication in order to protect them from heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we suggest having your cat or dog tested for heartworms every year.
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.