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Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets such as ferrets, dogs and cats. Memphis is a center for heartworm disease! Here's more from our Memphis vets on why prevention is the best treatment option.


What is heartworm?

Spread through the bite of a mosquito, heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called dirofilaria immitis.

These worms are called heartworms because they live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected animal. Pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets can become definitive hosts. Which means that while living inside the pet these worms mature into adults and then mate and produce offspring. 

What are symptoms of heartworm disease?

Sadly, the symptoms of heartworm disease typically don’t show up until the disease has progressed severely. Symptoms may include weight loss, a swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

How does the vet check my pet for heartworms?

Blood tests for heartworm disease can be done by your vet. This test can detect heartworm proteins, called antigens, which are released into the pet's bloodstream.

Approximately 5 months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito is the earliest that the heartworm proteins can be detected.

What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?

The treatment for heartworm disease can cause serious complications and can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body. Multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections are all part of the treatment for heartworm disease, making treatment expensive. Which is why the very best treatment is actually prevention!

There are treatment options available if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms. Your vet can help you choose the right one for your pet.

Administered by an injection into the back muscles, melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs.

Also available are topical FDA approved solutions that can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied to your pet's skin.

How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?

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

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

The prevention of heartworm disease is safe and easy, and much more affordable than treating the progressed diseased. Some medications that prevent heartworm can also help protect your dog from other parasites like hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.

Heartworm Prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet.

Looking for a vet in Cordova and greater Memphis area?

We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.

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