Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can affect pets in the Charlotte area. Heartworm can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, which is why our vets believe that prevention is the best treatment option.
What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread through the bite of a mosquito.
A pet (mainly dogs, cats and ferrets) is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults and then mate and produce offspring while living inside the animal.
The worms are called heartworms because they live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected animal.
What are symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don’t show up until the disease has progressed severely, and may include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss and a swollen abdomen.
How does the vet check my pet for heartworms?
To test for heartworms, your vet will do blood tests to look for proteins, called antigens, which are released into the pet's bloodstream by the heartworms.
Heartworm proteins can be detected approximately 5 months after the animal has been bitten by an infected mosquito.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
Unfortunately the treatment for heartworm disease can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and may even cause serious complications. Heartworm disease treatment is also expensive, requiring multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, a series of injections and hospitalization. That's why, when it come to heartworm disease - the best treatment is prevention!
There are treatment options available if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms. Your vet will help you choose the best treatment for your animal.
One treatment is melarsomine dihydrochloride which is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms. This treatment is administered by an injection into the back muscles in order to treat heartworm disease in dogs.
Topical FDA-approved solutions can be applied to the pet's skin to help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream.
How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?
Heartworm prevention medications available from your vet, are the best way to protect your pet from the disease.
Dogs should be tested for heartworms annually, even if they're already on preventive heartworm medication.
Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A number of heartworm preventive medications also help to protect your pet against other parasites such as whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms.