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Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease can result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to other organs, and even death for pets in Mandeville. Typically found in cats, dogs, and ferrets, our vets explain why preventative medicine is the best way to protect your pets from a serious and debilitating illness down the road.

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called dirogilaria immitis, or Heartworms, as they are more commonly known 

Juvenile heartworms are carried by infected mosquitos, who spread the parasite to your pet through their bite

Pets including dogs, cats, and ferrets may become definitive hosts, meaning that worms live, mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring all inside of the animal, then. Heartworm disease is named for the fact dirogilaria immitis live inside of a host's heart-- but as they procreate and spread through your pet's body they also set up shop in their other organs, and even inside their blood vessels. 

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced, however, and treatment will be difficult and invasive.  If your pet is showing signs of Heartworm infection, you must contact your vet right away for a consultation.  It is because of the disease's ability to remain hidden until after the point where permanent damage has already been done to your pet that we encourage preventative measures instead of treatment in reaction to heartworm infection. 

Diagnosing 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.

Treatment for Pets Diagnosed with Heartworm Disease

Keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. furthermore, treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, hospitalization, x-rays, and a series of injections. Prevention will always be the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease both for keeping costs manageable and your pets healthy. 

That said, if your pet 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.

How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?

It's important to keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually. 

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.

Is your pet exhibiting signs of heartworm disease? The team at Riverside Veterinary Hospital is experienced in diagnosing and treating heartworm disease. Please consider booking an appointment today if you have any concerns about your furry friend's health.

New Patients Welcome

At Riverside Veterinary Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our veterinary team is passionate about the health and well-being of companion animals in Mandeville. Book your first appointment today.

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