Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Prevention is key when it comes to heartworm! Today, our South Wilton vets explain how heartworm disease can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and even death in pets. Heartworm disease is most often found in dogs, cats, and ferrets. 

What is heartworm?

Heartworm disease is primarily is caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis which is spread through the bite of a mosquito.

Dogs, cats and ferrets can become this parasite's 'definitive host' after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  This means that while living inside your pet, the worms mature, mate and produce offspring.

We call this condition heartworm disease because the worms live within the blood vessels, lungs and heart of infected pets.

What are symptoms of heartworm disease?

There are no visible signs of heartworm until the disease has severely progressed.

Once the condition has progressed the most common symptoms of heartworm disease include: weight loss, fatigue, swollen abdomen, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

How does the vet check my pet for heartworms?

Your veterinarian can detect the presence of heartworm through blood tests done at the vet's office. The vet will examine your pet's blood for signs of antigens produced by heartworms.

These antigens can be detected approximately 5 months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, but not before. 

What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?

Treatment for heartworm can be toxic and cause serious complications for your pet.

Treatment for heartworm disease is also expensive because it requires multiple trips to the vet, a series of injections, bloodwork, x-rays, and hospitalization.

That's why our South Wilton vets tell our clients that the best treatment for heartworm disease is prevention!

If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, there are treatment options available.

Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an FDA approved arsenic-containing drug that kills adult heartworms in pets. To treat heartworm, melarsomine dihydrochloride is injected into the back muscles of the infected pet.

Topical solutions are also available from your vet to treat parasites detected in the bloodstream. 

How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?

The best way to prevent heartworm disease is by keeping your pet on preventive medication.

Our vets also recommend that all dogs be tested yearly for heartworm, even if they're already on preventive heartworm medication.

The fact is, heartworm disease prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed condition! An added bonus of some heartworm preventive medications is that they can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.

Preventing Heartworm in Pets, South Wilton Vet

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