Heartworm Treatment with our Gardner Veterinarian
Mosquitos buzzing around your ears during a night around the campfire can drive you mad, but they can have more serious consequences for your pets. Mosquitoes often carry heartworm larvae and if your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito it may lead to heartworm disease, which can permanently damage your pet’s heart, blood vessels and lungs. Despite the fact that heartworm disease is 100% preventable, many pets in Gardner are diagnosed with this serious and potentially fatal condition each year.
Heartworm Disease-What is it?
Heartworm disease is extremely serious and a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a roundworm parasite that live in the arteries of the lungs and the heart. Heartworms are a type of roundworm that is spread by mosquitoes to cats and dogs. Without heartworm vaccinations, pets of any age or breed are susceptible to the disease. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes that are infected with heartworm larvae. When the infected mosquito bites an animal, such as a dog or cat, the larvae are left on the animal’s skin and then migrate through the tissue, under the skin and into the blood vessels. After about six months the larvae mature into heartworms and begin to procreate. Adult heartworms can live up to 7 years in a dog and unfortunately, may go unnoticed until well into the progression of the disease.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
It is common for many dogs and cats to not show any signs of infection until the worm reaches maturity (after about 6 months). Symptoms may include:
- A soft, dry cough
- Inactivity or lethargy
- Weight loss
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
- Bulging chest
- Allergic reaction (more common in cats)
- Collapse, which is typically accompanied by shock and destruction of the red blood cells
- If the parasites end up in areas other than the heart or lungs, seizures, blindness and lameness may occur.
Veterinary Diagnosis of Heartworm
Along with the clinical signs, heartworm disease can be diagnosed through a veterinary exam and laboratory tests. Testing, such as a complete blood cell count, urinalysis and a blood chemistry panel are often recommended to help determine the severity of the disease. In some situations, x-rays or an ultrasound will provide evidence of heartworms in the heart and/or lungs. Other tests generally include an electrocardiogram to determine if there are abnormal heart rhythms and/or enlarged heart chambers and an echocardiography may help to determine if the heart is healthy enough for treatment.
Treatment for Heartworm Disease
The first step of treatment is to eliminate the adult worms, which typically takes about one month to complete. All of the dead worms are absorbed by the body. The next stage of heartworm treatment is getting rid of the younger parasites and the offspring. The most important factor of treating pets with heartworm disease is minimizing the harmful effects of the drugs used and to reduce the complications that may result by the dying heartworms.
Without a doubt, the most important thing to know about heartworm disease is that it is preventable. Preventive medications are available from your veterinarian and often provided in the form of a monthly chewable tablet or a topical medication. It is extremely important to have your pet tested annually for heartworm disease, even if they are on a preventative.
Contact our Gardner Veterinarian Today
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet and/or heartworm disease, contact Oakbrook Animal Hospital to help ensure the health and well-being of your pets.