Heartworm disease is a serious condition that affects dogs, cats and ferrets in Des Moines. This condition can cause heart failure, organ damage, lung disease and even death. Here, our vets explain why, because of this, prevention is key.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets, including cats, dogs and ferrets may be what is called a definitive host. This means that the heartworms live inside the animal, mature into adults, and then mate and product offspring. The condition is called heartworm disease since the parasites reside in your 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 proteins created by heartworms (also called antigens) that they release into you pet's blood. Heartworm proteins can't generally be detected until at least 5 months after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to remember that the treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications of its own. Not only that, but treatment can be quite expensive since it involves, multiple veterinary visits, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. Because of all of this, we firmly believe that prevention is the best treatment for heartworm disease.
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 that you keep your pet on preventative medication in order to prevent the development of heartworm disease in the first place. Even if your pet is already taking preventative heartworm medication, we advise that they be tested annually for heartworm disease.
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.