Welcome to April, where we get to experience the warm temperatures of spring and celebrate National Heartworm Awareness Month. Similar to its name Heartworm Awareness Month is dedicated to promoting the awareness, knowledge, and prevention of heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is one of the most common, harmful, and potentially fatal diseases contracted by pets, especially dogs. It’s a severe disease caused by parasitic worms living in your pet’s heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels, resulting in severe lung disease, heart failure, damage to other major organs, and death in severe cases. Continue reading for more information on heartworm disease transmission, treatment, symptoms, and testing.
It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito for your pet to fall victim to heartworms. Once they’ve been bitten by an infected mosquito, heartworm larvae invade their bloodstream traveling to the heart and lungs. Fortunately, heartworms can’t be transmitted from one pet to other pets. Mosquito bites are the only way pets can contract heartworm disease.
The symptoms of heartworm disease vary based on the number of heartworms living inside your pet, how long they’ve been infected, how their body is responding to the presence of heartworms, and how active they are. Listed below are some of the identified signs and symptoms linked to heartworm disease:
- Mild persistent coughing
- Reduced activity level
- Fatigue, especially after physical activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Trouble breathing
- Heart failure
- Swollen belly from excess fluid
Implementing various heartworm prevention measures is one of the best treatments, protecting your pet from contracting heartworms. However, if your pet does happen to contract heartworms from an infected mosquito, the American Heartworm Society has a set treatment protocol that works well to cure heartworm disease. Treatment consists of oral antibiotics and steroids administered at home along with a series of injections given at the hospital by the veterinarian. Treatment spans over several months and your dog will need to be kept calm for the duration of the treatment. Your dog will only be able to go for short walks to go to the bathroom and should not run, play, or do anything that would cause them to exert themselves. If your pet is diagnosed with advanced heartworm disease, our veterinarians will guide you through the entire treatment process. for advice on the best treatment options.
The best thing you can do for your pet is to prevent heartworm disease in the first place! Interceptor Plus is a tasty monthly chewable preventive that protects your dog from five types of worms, including heartworms, tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.
Heartworms are a very serious and progressive disease, so your pet should be tested regularly for early detection and a better chance for your pet to recover. Testing for heartworms requires us to take a blood sample from your pet and test it for heartworm antigen released into your pet’s bloodstream by female heartworms. Heartworm antigens can be detected in the bloodstream up to five months after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There’s also a test that detects microfilariae in your pet’s bloodstream, indicating that they’re actively infected with adult heartworms. Microfilariae can be detected in your pet’s bloodstream about six months after being bitten since heartworms typically have a slow development. Regularly testing your pet for heartworms is key in heartworm prevention.
4DX Every Two Years
The 4DX test is a powerful, quick, and simple antigen test that we use to screen for heartworm disease. All we need is a few drops of your pet’s blood and we can run the test right in the hospital during your pet’s visit. As an added bonus, the 4DX tests for three other diseases common to our area: Lyme, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia. Pets should be taken for a 4DX screening at least twice a year for early detection and treatment of these harmful and potentially fatal diseases to ensure their health, comfort, and safety.
Here at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, We’ll Treat Your Pets Like Family!
Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!