Heartworm disease is dangerous for cats and dogs in Kinston. It can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to your pet's organs, and potentially death. Most of the time the disease can be found in ferrets, dogs, and cats. Today our veterinary team at Five Oaks Animal Hospital discusses why prevention is important.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites and is generally caused by a parasitic worm known as dirogilaria immitis.
Pets such as cats, dogs, and ferrets can become their hosts, where they grow into adults, mate, and produce offspring. We call this life-threatening condition heartworm disease because the worms live in the blood vessels, lungs, and hearts of infected animals.
The Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
Your pet won't display any symptoms of heartworm disease until the disease has become more advanced. A swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of heartworm disease.
How Vets Check Your Pet for Heartworms
Your veterinarian will conduct blood tests to search for heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the bloodstream of infected animals Heartworm proteins can't be found until approximately five months (at the earliest) after an animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What Happens When Pets are Diagnosed with Heartworms
Keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and can 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 to Protect Your Pet from Heartworm Disease
You need to keep your cat or dog on their preventive medication in order to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we suggest having your pet tested for heartworms once a year.
It's safer and more affordable to prevent heartworm disease than to treat it once it has progressed. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.