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Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that may result in heart failure, severe lung disease, damage to organs and even death for dogs cats and ferrets in the Phenix City area. Here, our veterinary team explains why prevention is so important.

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is spread through mosquito bites and is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. 

Pets like dogs cats and ferrets may become what is called a definitive host, meaning that the worms live inside the animal, mature into adults and produce offspring, living out their whole lifecycle all over again. The condition is referred to as heartworm disease since to worms live in the lungs, heart and blood vessels of an infected pet. 

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

Symptoms of heartworm disease generally don't appear until well after the disease has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptoms of heartworms include a swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing. 

How does my vet check my pet for 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.

What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?

It's important to remember that the treatment for heartworm disease may itself cause serious complications and potentially be toxic to your pt's body. Not only that, but treatment is also quite expensive and requires multiple visits to your veterinarian, hospitalization. X-rays, bloodwork and injection. Because of this, we believe that prevention is without question the best treatment for heartworm disease. 

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 very important that your keep your pet on preventive medication in order to prevent heartworm disease from developing in the first place in your pet. However, even if your pet is already on heartworm prevention medication, we recommend that dogs and other pets that spend time outside regularly be tested annual for heartworms.

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? Our vets have experience in diagnosing and treating many common illnesses and conditions. Book an appointment at Summerville Animal Hospital today.

New Patients Welcome

Summerville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Phenix City companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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