Heartworm Prevention and Treatment
Each year, one in every 200 dogs are infected by heartworm disease in the United States. While this disease is life-threatening, it is preventable with a monthly heartworm preventative provided by our veterinarian at Firestone Animal Hospital in Downey.
What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious disease caused by a mosquito biting an animal who already has the worms and transmitting them to another animal. Through the infected bite, heartworm larvae will travel through the new host’s bloodstream into the heart, lungs, and other organs. Once the larvae matures into adult heartworms, it grow to a foot or more in length and can stay in the body of host for many years.
Symptoms of Heartworm
In the early stages of the disease, your pet may not display any signs of heartworm. As the disease progresses, your pet may develop a mild cough, be reluctant to exercise, have a decreased appetite, and lose weight. In the more advanced stages, dogs can develop sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart, which can lead to cardiovascular collapse. Other signs include a swollen stomach, dark-bloody or coffee colored urine, pale gums, and labored breathing.
Annual testing by a veterinarian are necessary. A blood sample is taken to test for signs of heartworm proteins. If your pet tests positive, you will receive a list of what to do from our veterinary team. Our vet will suggest to restrict your pet’s activity during treatment to prevent further damage to the organs. If your pet is stabled with the disease, our vet will prescribe medication to help kill the worms. After a few months, additional testing will need to be done in order to see if the heartworms have been eliminated.
Using a Monthly Preventative
To prevent your pet from getting heartworm, monthly preventatives are available. These may come in a spot-on topical formula, an oral tablet, or as an injection. These medications work by eliminating the immature stages of the heartworm parasite. Pets as young as eight weeks of age should start on a regular heartworm treatment to prevent a heartworm outbreak regardless of where you live.