Heartworm disease is a dangerous illness that could lead to severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other organs as well as death for cats, dogs, and ferrets in Milledgeville. In this blog, our vets discuss the causes and symptoms of heartworm disease, as well as why prevention is essential.
Heartworm disease spreads through bites from an infected mosquito and is generally caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Pets such as cats, dogs, and ferrets could become their hosts, this means the worms live inside the pet, where they mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. We call this dangerous condition heartworm disease because the worms reside in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the animals they infect.
The Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
Animals that are infected typically don't start displaying any symptoms of heartworm until the disease has advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.
Testing Your Pet for Heartworms
Your vet will be able to conduct blood tests to find heartworm proteins (antigens), that are released into your cat or dog's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be found until a minimum of five months after your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito.
When Pets are Diagnosed with Heartworms
You need to know that the treatments for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and could be potentially toxic to your cat or dog's body. On top of this, the treatments are 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.
However, if your furry friend 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.
Preventing Heartworm Disease
It's important to keep your cat or dog on their preventive medication in order to protect them from heartworm disease. Even if your pet is already on preventive heartworm medication, we highly recommend having them tested for heartworms every year.
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.