Heartworm disease is a serious, often fatal condition in dogs that can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and more. Preventing heartworm disease is both easier on your pet, and on your wallet than treating the disease after your dog gets ill. Our Paddock Park Animal Care Center vets explain why.
Heartworm Disease in Paddock Park Animal Care Center
Heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquito bites, is caused primarily by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.
Your dog can become a 'definitive host' for this parasite, which means that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside your pet. Because the worms live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected pet, this serious condition is known as heartworm disease.
Signs of Heartworm in Dogs
Unfortunately, signs of heartworm disease in dogs typically do not appear until the disease has progressed to more advanced stages. When symptoms do appear, they include fatigue, a swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, and loss of weight.
Blood tests can be done at your vet's office to detect heartworm proteins, called antigens, which are released into the animal's bloodstream. These antigens first become detectible between 5-7 months after your pooch has been infected.
Treatment for Heartworm Disease in Dogs
The reason that prevention is so important when it comes to heartworm is that the treatment for the disease can cause serious health complications and be toxic to your pup's body. Not only that, treatment is can be expensive because it requires multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet can use melarsomine dihydrochloride (which is an arsenic-containing drug that kills adult heartworms) to treat your pet. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is administered by an injection into the back muscles of the dog in order to kill the parasites.
Heartworm disease can also be treated with FDA-approved topical solutions. When applied directly to the animal's skin, these solutions can aid in the removal of parasites from the bloodstream.
Keeping your dog on preventative medication is the best way to prevent heartworm disease from impacting your dog's health. Even if your pooch is already on preventive heartworm medication, it is recommended that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.
Heartworm prevention is much safer, easier, and less expensive than treating advanced diseases! Several heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites like hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.