Heartworms are a major risk for pets around West Omaha. Heartworms are especially common with dogs, however, they can infect other animals, including cats and ferrets. If you would like to speak with a veterinarian about heartworm treatment or prevention, contact Morgan Pet Clinic in West Omaha. One of our veterinarians will be happy to assist you.
What is Heartworm Disease and What Causes It?
Heartworm disease is caused by literal heartworms called Dirofilaria immitis. These tiny worms can get into your pet’s bloodstream and reproduce. From there, they will live as parasites in your dog or other pet’s body, absorbing vital nutrients.
Female heartworms will release their offspring directly into your pet's bloodstream. From there, the baby worms will feed off your pet, grow, mate, give birth, and die off. If a mosquito comes along and bites your dog, some of the heartworm microfilariae may hitch a ride. If the mosquito then bites another dog, the heartworms can spread.
Heartworm Disease Symptoms
Eventually, enough heartworms can grow in your pet’s body to lead to cardiovascular issues. It is important to keep an eye on your pets and look for symptoms of heartworm disease. In the early stages, you may notice no obvious symptoms. That said, coughing is often the first sign.
Eventually, your pet will start to cough more frequently. Your dog may suddenly become lethargic and even a short workout or a walk around the park may leave your pet tired. As the heartworms multiply, your pet will be put at risk of caval syndrome, which is often fatal. With caval syndrome, your dog’s cardiovascular system becomes blocked.
What to Expect with Heartworm Treatment
The best type of treatment is prevention. You can use a variety of topical and oral medications to kill heartworms before they can fully infect your dog, cat, or other pet. This way, your pet will suffer no symptoms and the risk of disease is greatly lowered if not eliminated.
If it is too late for prevention, the veterinarian may use Melarsomine dihydrochloride which is sold under the names Immiticide and Diroban, to kill off the heartworms. To do this, we will typically inject the medication deep into your dog’s back. The topical solution Advantage Multi can also be used to kill baby heartworms.
If heartworm disease is not treated early, surgery may be necessary. In the last stage of heartworm disease, so many worms are clogging your pet’s cardiovascular system that they must be physically removed. Unfortunately, the prognosis is often bad and many dogs die at this stage.