Heartworm disease is a serious condition affecting dogs, cats and ferrets in Bellevue. Heartworm disease can cause lung disease, heart failure and even death for pets. Because of this, here our vets explain why prevention is critical.
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 all become definitive hosts. This means that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, mate and then produce offspring. This serious condition is referred to as heartworm disease since the worms live 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 to detect heartworm antigens—another word for their proteins—that they release into your pet's bloodstream. These proteins aren't detectable in your pet until about 5 months after your companion I sbitten 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.
That being said, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, 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.
There are also topical FDA-approved solutions available. These can help to eliminate parasites from your pet's bloodstream when directly applied to their 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.