For pets in Greeley, heartworm disease is a serious condition that can lead to organ damage, severe lung disease, heart failure and even death for pets. This disease is typically found in dogs, cats and ferrets. Our vets explain why prevention is critical.
What is heartworm disease?
This dangerous disease is spread through mosquito bites. It is primarily caused by dirogilaria immitis, a parasitic worm.
Definitive hosts may include cats, dogs and ferrets. Ticks live inside these animals, mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. This serious condition is named heartworm disease since worms live in the heart, blood vessels and lungs of an infected pet.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Typically, symptoms of heartworm disease won't appear until the disease has advanced. Common symptoms of the condition include fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing, coughing and swollen abdomen.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet can take blood tests to determine whether your pet's symptoms are caused by heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into an animal's bloodstream. Until about five months (at the earliest) after an infected mosquito has bitten an animal, heartworm proteins can't be detected.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Serious complications can arise from treating heartworm disease, and treatment can potentially be toxic to your pet's body. The treatment is also costly as it requires multiple visits to your vet, hospitalization, bloodwork, a series of injections and x-rays. This is why we steadfastly advocate for prevention as the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
However, if your vet does diagnose your pet with heartworms, try not to despair as treatment options are available. Melarsomine dihydrochloride, the FDA-approved drug, contains arsenic to kill adult heartworms. This drug will be administered by your vet via injection into your pet's back muscles, in order to treat the disease.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also on the market and can help eliminate parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to a pet's skin.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
Keeping your pet on parasite prevention medication to prevent heartworm disease is key. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend having your dog tested for heartworm each year.
It's safer, easier and much more affordable to prevent heartworm disease than to treat the progressed condition. Many heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.