Heartworms are a dangerous illness spread by mosquitoes. They can affect pets like cats, dogs, and ferrets and lead to serious health problems, even death, if not treated in time. That's why it's important to prevent heartworm disease, and our local Williamsburg vets can help.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm disease is a health problem that pets like dogs, cats, and ferrets can get. It happens when mosquitoes carrying a worm called Dirofilaria immitis bite them. The worms then live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of the pet, causing the disease.
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?
A vet can do a blood test to check for heartworms in your pet. These tests look for proteins in the blood that come from heartworms. It takes about 5 months for these proteins to show up after a pet is bitten by a mosquito carrying the heartworm disease.
What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworm?
Heartworm treatment can be difficult for pets and expensive for owners. The best way to protect your pet is to prevent heartworms from taking hold. If your pet does have heartworms, your vet will explain the options. Dogs may need injections of an arsenic-based medication, but this is toxic to cats and other treatments will be discussed. The length of time heartworms can live in a pet varies, with dogs being infected for longer periods than cats.
Heartworms can live in dogs for 5-7 years while in cats typically only live for 2-3.
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.
Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. A number of heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites such as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.