Heartworm disease is a serious condition that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death in pets. Huntersville is a center for heartworm disease! Here, our vets explain why preventing heartworm is far better than treatment.
What is heartworm?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Heartworms get their name from the fact that they live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of infected animals. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, your pet could become a 'definitive host' to heartworms. That means that these parasitic worms will mature into adults, mate and produce offspring while living inside your pet.
What are symptoms of heartworm disease?
Both cats and dogs can get heartworm if bitten by an infected mosquito, however heartworm is most commonly seen in dogs.
Until the disease has severely progressed there are no obvious symptoms of heartworm disease. Symptoms of the progressed disease include fatigue, weight loss, a swollen abdomen, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
How does the vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet will check your pet's blood for heartworm proteins (antigens) when testing for the disease. Antigens can be detected approximately five months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Treatment for heartworm disease is available however, it's important to note that the treatment can cause serious complications and can be potentially toxic to your pet’s body.
Treatment for heartworm disease is also expensive since multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections are required. Which is why prevention is far better than treatment when it comes to heartworm!
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease your vet will help you choose the best treatment for your pet.
To kill adult heartworms, melarsomine dihydrochloride (an arsenic-containing drug approved by the FDA) can be injected into your pet's back muscles. Parasites detected in your pet's bloodstream can be treated with a topical solution applied to your pet's skin.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
The absolute best way to prevent heartworm disease is to keep your pet on prevention medication. Our vets also recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworm, even if they are already on preventive medication.
Preventing heartworm disease is safe, easy, and much more affordable than treating the disease once it has progressed. Some preventive heartworm medications also protect your pet against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Speak to your vet to find out which preventive medication is right for your pet.
Heartworm Prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet.
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We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.
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