When it comes to heartworm disease, our Thomasville vets believe that prevention is key. For dogs and cats in Davidson County, heartworm disease results in lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and death. Here is why prevention of this serious condition is far better than treatment.
Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that is caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Heartworms get their name from the fact that they live within a host animal's heart, lungs and blood vessels.
If infected, your pet becomes a definitive host, meaning that the parasite matures, mates and reproduces while living within your dog, or cat.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
Symptoms of heartworm disease include weight loss, a swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. That said, symptoms of heartworm disease typically don’t show up until the disease has progressed severely, and your pet has become very ill.
Testing for Heartworm Disease
Blood tests for heartworm disease can be done by your Thomasville vet before symptoms appear. This blood test gives your vet an opportunity to detect proteins, called antigens, which are released by the heartworms into the pet's bloodstream.
The earliest that your vet will be able to detect heartworm proteins in your pet's blood is about 5 months after the infection has occurred.
Treatment of Heartworm Disease
There are treatments available if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, but these treatments are potentially toxic to your pet's body, may cause serious complications, and can become very expensive.
Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs, and topical FDA approved solutions are available to get rid of parasites found in your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm treatment will also require multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, and hospitalization.
Heartworm Disease Prevention
The absolute best way to keep your pet safe from heartworm disease is to keep them on prevention medication, available from your vet.
Our Thomasville vets also recommend testing dogs annually for heartworm disease, even if they are regularly taking heartworm prevention medications.
Preventing heartworm is safe, easy, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease! Another bonus to heartworm prevention is that some of the preventive medications also help protect your dog from other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.