Heartworm illness is a dangerous ailment that can cause heart failure, severe lung disease, organ damage, and even death in New York pets. Cats, dogs, and ferrets are the most common carriers of the illness. Our veterinarians explain 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 Dirofilaria immitis.
Dogs, cats, and ferrets can become definitive hosts, which means that worms remain within the animal, grow into adults, mate, and create offspring. Because the worms reside in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected pet, we name this severe disorder heartworm disease.
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 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 treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. This is why we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your veterinarian will have treatment options. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing medication that has been authorized by the FDA. Adult heartworms are killed by it. In order to treat the illness, melarsomine dihydrochloride will be injected into your pet's back muscles.
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.