Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that can result in heart failure, serious lung disease, and damage to other organs. It may even cause death for dogs and cats in the Sacramento area. Here, our vets explain why prevention is key.

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis. 

Pets. including cats, dogs, and ferrets, may all become what is called a definitive host. This means that 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 make their home in the blood vessels, lungs, and heart of an infected pet. 

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

the symptoms of heartworms disease generally don't appear until the disease is in a more advanced state. The most common symptoms found in pets of heartworm disease include coughing, weight loss, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and a swollen abdomen.

How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?

Your vet can complete blood tests to detect heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about five months (at the earliest) after an animal is bitten by an infected mosquito.

What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?

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. 

All of that being said. if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms, our vet will have treatment options available to you. The 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 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 can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?

You must keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. Even if your pet is already on preventive heartworm treatment, we still recommend that dogs be tested annually for heartworms. 

Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Several heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.

Is your pet showing symptoms of heartworm disease? Veterinary Medical Center can diagnose and provide treatment for illnesses and conditions like heartworm disease. Book an appointment with us today.