Heartworm disease is a highly dangerous condition that affects pets in Orlando. It can cause heart failure along with severe lung disease, damage to other parts of the body, and even death. Cats and dogs and ferrets are most commonly known to get sick with the disease. This is why it's important to keep your pets healthy.
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 can become "definitive hosts," which means that worms live inside the animal, then become adults, mate, and have babies. If your dog or cat has heartworms, they live in his or her heart, lung, and blood vessels. We deem this a "serious" condition.
What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
Most pets don't show signs of heartworm disease until the disease is very bad. The most common signs of heartworm disease are a swollen abdomen, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and trouble breathing.
How does my vet check my pet for heartworms?
Your veterinarian can do blood tests to look for heartworm proteins (antigens), which are released into the animal's bloodstream. These proteins can be found. Heartworm proteins can't be found until about five months after an animal is bitten by a mosquito that has heartworm.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?
Pet owners should be aware that the treatment for heartworm disease can have serious side effects and even be toxic to your pet's body. Treatment also costs a significant amount of money because it takes a lot of time at the vet, getting bloodwork, staying in the hospital, getting X-rays, and getting injections. This is why we say that prevention is the best way to get rid of heartworm disease.
However, if your pet is found to have heartworms, your vet will be able to give you treatment options. Arsenic is found in FDA-approved melarsomine dihydrochloride, which is a drug. A drug that kills adult heartworms can be found on the market. It will be given to your pet through an injection into its back muscles 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 important to keep your pet on preventive heartworm medicine to keep them from being infected with the disease. Even if they are already taking heartworm prevention medication, we still recommend that dogs be checked for heartworms every year.
Preventing heartworm is safer, easier, and cheaper than treating the disease when it's already out of hand. There are a lot of heartworm preventive medicines that can also help protect against other parasites, like hookworms and whipworms.