Heartworm is a serious disease in dogs that can result in severe lung disease and organ failure. Today our Waxhaw vets talk about what heartworm disease is and how to prevent it.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis and is spread through mosquito bites.
When your dog becomes infected with heartworm disease, they become a host for the parasite. This means the worms live and breed in your dog's heart, lungs, and blood vessels, causing damage to multiple internal systems.
What are the signs of heartworm in dogs?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot the symptoms of heartworm disease until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Symptoms of heartworm disease include fatigue, a swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.
How is heartworm diagnosed and treated?
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.
If your dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease, the treatment may involve injecting melarsomine dihydrochloride, an arsenic-containing drug that kills adult heartworms, into your dog's back. This treatment is very difficult on your dog's body and can be quite expensive, which is why we heavily focus on heartworm prevention.
Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available to treat heartworm disease. These solutions can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.
How can I prevent heartworm in my dog?
Keeping your dog on preventative medication is the best way to prevent heartworm disease from impacting your dog's health. Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed diseased. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.
Even if your dog is on preventive medicine, be sure to still have them tested annually for heartworm disease.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.