Heartworm disease is a serious but preventable condition that can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, organ damage and even death for pets in Grand Prairie. While treatment for heartworm disease is available it can be hard on your pet. Our Grand Prairie vets explain...
Heartworm Disease Explained
Heartworm is a disease primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immiti which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Pets including dogs, cats and ferrets may become definitive hosts, meaning that worms live inside the animal, then mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. Heartworm disease gets its name from the fact that the parasitic worms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of infected pets.
Symptoms of Heartworm in Pets
Unfortunately, the symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is fairly advanced. When symptoms do become apparent they include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How Heartworm Disease is Diagnosed
Your vet can complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can not be detected until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.
Treatment for Heartworm Disease
The treatment for heartworm disease can 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 believe that prevention is essential when it comes to heartworm disease.
Nonetheless, if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic and is used to kill 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 to help get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
Protecting Your Pet Against Heartworm Disease
Keeping your pet on preventive medication to is the best way to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
It's important for pet parents to note that 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.