Heartworm disease is a dangerous condition in cats and dogs that could lead to severe lung disease, heart failure, as well as cause damage to other organs and potentially death. Here, our Orange vets discuss the symptoms of heartworm disease and why prevention is essential.
Heartworm disease is most often transmitted through mosquito bites. It's primarily caused by a parasitic worm known as Dirofilaria immitis.
Pets such as cats, dogs, and ferrets can become the hosts of these parasites, this means that the worms live inside your pet, mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals.
The Symptoms of Heartworm Disease to Watch For
Pets don't usually start showing any signs of having heartworm disease until the disease becomes more advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.
How Vet Check Cats & Dogs for Heartworms
Your vet is able to conduct blood tests to look for heartworm proteins (antigens), that are released into the pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until approximately five months (at the earliest) after a cat or dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What Happens When Your Pet is Diagnosed with Heartworms
You need to know that treatment for heartworm disease could lead to serious complications and be potentially toxic to the body of your pet. Not only this, but the treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the vet, hospitalization, X-rays, bloodwork, and a series of injections. This is why our vets say prevention is the absolute best way to treat heartworm disease.
Although, if your cat or dog is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will have treatment options available. FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride is a drug that contains arsenic and kills adult heartworms. To treat the disease melarsomine dihydrochloride will be administered via injection into your pet's back muscles.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available. These can help get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
Protecting Your Cat or Dog From Heartworm Disease
It's very important that you keep your pet on preventive medications in order to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we suggest having your pet tested for heartworms every year.
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.