Heartworm disease is a dangerous condition which can cause lung diseases, organ failure as well as heart failure, and even death for Los Angeles pets. This disease is found most often in ferrets, dogs and cats. And here, our vets explain why prevention of this condition is so important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets may become definitive hosts, meaning that ticks live inside the animal, then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. We call this serious condition heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease don't usually appear until the disease has entered an advanced stage. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include a swollen abdomen, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing and coughing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can use a blood test to detect proteins (or antigens) created by heartworms in your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about 5 months (at minimum) after your pet is bitten by a mosquito carrying these parasites.
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.
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 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 much, much less expensive and safer than treating the progressed condition. A number of heartworm preventative medications are also able to help to protect your pet against parasites such as whipworms, roundworms and hookworms too.