Heartworm disease is a serious condition which can cause heart failure, lung disease, as well as damage to other organs throughout your pet's body in Santa Barbara. This disease is generally found in cats, dogs and ferrets. 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 dirogilaria immitis.
Pets, including dogs, ferrets and cats may become what is called a definitive host, meaning that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. This condition is called heartworm disease since the parasites live in an animal's heart, lungs and blood vessels.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
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 heartworms?
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.
If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, however, our vets will have treatment options available for them. the FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug which contains arsenic and kills adult heartworms. This medication will be administered through injection into the muscles of your pet's back in order to treat this condition.
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?
It's key to keep your pet on preventive medications in order to prevent heartworm disease. Even if your pet is already on heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
Prevention against heartworms is easier, safer and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A variety of heartworm preventive treatments can also protect your pet against other parasites, from whipworms and hookworms to roundworms.