Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that affects dogs, cats and other pets throughout North Carolina. Today our vets explain why, when it comes to Heartworm disease, prevention is key.


What is Heartworm?

Heartworms are a parasite that get into your pet through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once bitten by an infected mosquito your pet becomes the parasite's definitive host. Being a definitive host means that the worms mature into adults, mate and produce offspring all while living inside your pet. Heartworms get their name from the fact that they live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected animal. Dogs, cats and ferrets are the pets most commonly affected by Heartworm disease.

What are symptoms of Heartworm disease?

Symptoms of Heartworm disease include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss and a swollen abdomen. However, these symptoms do not become apparent until the disease has progressed severely and your pet is very sick. There are no early signs or symptoms of Heartworm disease.

How does the vet check my pet for Heartworms?

To check your pet for Heartworm disease, your vet will examine your pet's blood for Heartworm proteins, called antigens. The earliest that Heartworm antigens can be detected is approximately 5 months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito.    

What if my pet is diagnosed with Heartworms?

Treatment of Heartworm disease can be potentially toxic to your pet's body and can cause serious health complications.

Heartworm treatment involves multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections, making it very expensive. 

Treatment options available from your veterinarian include:

  • Melarsomine dihydrochloride, an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms. To treat Heartworm disease, this drug is administered by injection into your pet's back muscles.
  • Topical FDA-approved solutions. These solutions can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied to your pet's skin. 

How do I prevent my pet from getting Heartworm disease?

The best way to prevent Heartworm disease is to keep your pet on a prevention medication.

If you have a dog, it is recommended that they be tested for Heartworms annually, even if they are already on preventive Heartworm medication.

Heartworm prevention is safe and easy, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Some Heartworm preventive medications can also help protect against other parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Heartworm and other parasites can be prevented. Contact our hospital to make an appointment for your pet today.

Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets, Flat Rock Vet

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