Heartworm is a serious disease that your dog can contract. It is caused by parasitic worms that live in your dog's heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito. Our Austell vets share information that you should be aware of to protect your beloved pet.
What is heartworm disease?
Dirofilaria immitis, a blood-borne parasite, causes heartworm disease. Heartworm is found all over the world with over 30 mosquito species spreading it.
If an infected mosquito bites your dog the worms will mature and mate. They will produce offspring while living inside your dog's heart. This disease can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and organ damage.
What are the signs of heartworm in dogs?
Many dogs exhibit few or no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Signs include difficulty breathing, a mild but constant cough, fatigue after moderate activity, decreasing 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?
Blood tests performed by your vet detect proteins released by heartworms in your dog's bloodstream. The heartworm proteins can be detected as early as 5 months after infection.
As a result, we recommend you have your dog tested for heartworm every 12 months. Further, administer heartworm preventive treatments once a year. Our Bullard Animal Hospital vets emphasize that prevention is superior to 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, heartworm treatment 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.
What are some heartworm prevention strategies?
Your veterinarian can provide you with heartworm prevention medication. If your dog is already on preventive medication, we still recommend annual blood tests.
Heartworm prevention is much safer, easier, and less expensive than treating the disease. The prevention treatment may also protect against other parasites like roundworms and whipworms.
Contact your vet to book an annual heartworm preventative appointment for your dog.