Heartworm disease is a serious condition affecting cats, dogs and ferrets in the Sacramento area. Heartworms can cause heart failure, severe lung disease and even death for our pets. Here, our vets explain 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, from dogs and cats to ferrets, can become what is called a definitive host. This means that the worms live inside your pet's body, mature into adults, mate and then produce offspring. This serious condition is called heartworm disease since the parasites live in the lungs, blood vessels and heart of an infected animal.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Symptoms of heartworm disease typically don't appear until the disease is advanced. The most common symptoms of heartworm disease include swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss and difficulty breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your vet is able to complete blood testing in order to detect heartworm proteins (also called antigens) that are released into your pet's bloodstream. Heartworm proteins can't be detected until about 5 months after an animal is bitten by a mosquito carrying the infection.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?
It's important to remember that the treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and potentially be toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but the treatment is also quite expensive since it generally requires multiple veterinary visits and injections, X-rays, hospitalizations and diagnostic testing. Because of this, we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm disease.
Keep in mind that treatment for heartworm disease may cause serious complications and be potentially toxic to your pet's body. Not only that, but treatment is also expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, blood work, hospitalization, x-rays and a series of injections. This is why we say prevention is the absolute best treatment for heartworm 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 important to keep your pet on preventive medication to prevent heartworm disease. Even if they are already on preventive heartworm medication, we recommend that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
The prevention of heartworm disease is far safer, easier and much more affordable than treatment for the disease in a progressed state. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help to protect your companion from other parasites too, from hookworms to roundworms.