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Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease is a very serious condition that affects dogs, cats and other pets across North Carolina. Here our Asheville vets explain why, prevention is essential when it comes to Heartworm disease.


What is Heartworm?

Heartworms are a parasite that get into your pet through the bite of an infected mosquito. 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.

Like all parasites, Heartworms require a host for their survival. Pets can become the parasite's definitive host if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Being a definitive host means that the Heartworms mature into adults, mate and produce offspring all while living inside your pet. 

What are symptoms of Heartworm disease?

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

How does the vet check my pet for Heartworms?

By doing blood tests, your vet will check for Heartworm proteins, called antigens. The earliest that Heartworm antigens can be detected  in an infected animal's blood is about 5 months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito.    

What if my pet is diagnosed with Heartworms?

Treatment of Heartworm disease is unpleasant, can be potentially toxic to your pet's body, and may cause serious health complications for your pet. Treatment requires multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections, also making it very expensive. 

Treatment options available from your veterinarian include:

  • Topical FDA-approved solutions that when applied to your pet's skin, help to destroy parasites in the bloodstream. 
  • Melarsomine dihydrochloride, an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult Heartworms. This drug is administered by injection into your pet's back muscles.

How do I prevent my pet from getting Heartworm disease?

Keeping your pet on Heartworm prevention medication is the best way to prevent Heartworm disease.

It is recommended that pets be tested for Heartworms every year, even if they are already on preventive Heartworm medication.

Heartworm prevention is safer, easier, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Some Heartworm prevention medications also have the added benefit of protecting your pet against other parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Protect your pet. To learn more about Heartworm prevention, contact your Asheville vet at Animal Hospital of North Asheville today.

Heartworm disease in pets, Asheville Vet

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