Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect your dog. It is caused by parasitic worms, spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, that can live in your dogs heart, lungs and blood vessels. Here, our Plains vets share information that you should be aware of to protect your beloved pet.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm Disease is a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. Canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world and there are over 30 species of mosquitoes that can transmit heartworms.
If your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, the worms will mature into adults, mate and produce offspring while living inside your pet's heart. This disease can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs.
What are symptoms of heartworm disease?
In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. As heartworm disease progresses, symptoms include difficulty breathing, a mild persistent cough, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
In advanced cases of heartworm disease, pets may develop heart failure and you will notice the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the dog’s abdomen.
How is heartworm disease detected?
Your vet will run blood tests that can detect proteins released by heartworms in your dog's bloodstream. The earliest that the heartworm proteins can be detected is about 5 months after the pet has become infected.
For this reason, it is recommended that you get your dog tested every 12 months for heartworm and administer heartworm preventive treatments each year. Our Northeast Veterinary vets can't stress enough that, when it comes to heartworm disease, prevention is far better than treatment.
What are the treatment options for heartworm disease?
Below are some treatment options that may be available if your dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease. Your vet can help you choose which is right for your pet.
Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is injected into the pet's back muscles to treat heartworms. This drug is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in pets.
Alternatively, topical solutions that are FDA-approved can be applied to your pet's skin to help to kill parasites in your pet's bloodstream.
It is important to note that, treatment for heartworm can cause serious complications for your pet's health and can be potentially toxic to your dog.
Because treatment requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections treatment of heartworm disease for your pet can be very expensive.
How can I prevent my dog from getting heartworm disease?
Heartworm prevention medications are available from your vet. Annual blood tests to check for heartworm is recommended, even if your dog is already on preventive heartworm medication.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the disease. The prevention treatment may also protect your pet against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
Contact your vet to book an annual heart worm preventative appointment for your dog.