At Valley Animal Hospital, we know that you want what’s best for your pet, and while they rely on you to advocate for their health, it’s up to us to make sure that you’re aware of all of the ways that your pet can be protected from preventable illnesses and diseases.
One condition that all pet owners should be aware of is heartworm disease. Microscopic baby heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites, and it only takes one bite to create an infection. Heartworms are very serious and can be lethal if the disease goes untreated. Fortunately, it’s almost 100% preventable. This condition is very common in dogs and cats and is also found in ferrets and other exotic pets.
Heartworms are also found in both outdoor AND indoor dogs, especially those that reside near bodies of water and in humid climates. Regardless of where you live, you should still be wary of heartworm disease since people and their pets frequently travel to and from areas with high infestations. Let’s go over what you should look out for in terms of symptoms.
Our pet hospital is conveniently located in Pharr, which is just a short drive from McAllen and other cities in the Valley. If your dog, cat or other pet needs a checkup, then visit us today!
What to Look Out For
Heartworm symptoms are typically categorized into four different severities, or classes:
- Class 1 – This is the least severe class and may not include any symptoms, or may include minor ones like light coughing.
- Class 2 – Includes moderate symptoms like heavier coughing and even fatigue and exercise intolerance after physical activities like outdoor play.
- Class 3 – Is much more severe and can include anemia, serious fatigue, difficulty breathing, fainting and heart failure.
- Class 4 – In this class, the heartworms can actually form barriers that limit or block blood flows into the heart. This level of severity is lethal.
Diagnosing the Condition
One very important factor that pet owners should keep in mind is that adult heartworms cannot be detected until up to six months after your pet has been exposed to them. The blood test most commonly used to diagnose heartworm disease detects a chemical that comes from adult female heartworms. If your pet tests positive, then it means that there are already adult heartworms living in the vessels of the heart.
When it comes to diagnosing the condition, a vet will conduct a simple blood test that only requires three drops of blood with results available in about 15 minutes. The test also conveniently checks for three common tick diseases. It’s highly recommended that all pets be screened for heartworms annually, even if they’ve never missed a dose of heartworm prevention. If your pet is over six months old, has missed multiple doses of prevention or has never been on prevention, then heartworm testing is especially important. Getting your pet tested before beginning a heartworm prevention regimen is crucial because some preventatives can cause complications if adult heartworms are already present.
Thankfully, there are many easy ways to prevent heartworms, including tasty meat flavored chewable tabs that you can give as a treat once a month, convenient monthly topical medications and a quick injection of medication administered by a vet that lasts six months. Some heartworm preventatives also prevent fleas and treat intestinal parasites.
Unfortunately, once heartworm disease is diagnosed, the treatment to get rid of them is expensive but well worth it as it can save your pet’s life and prevent any additional damage to the heart. If needed, ultrasounds and x-rays can be used to visualize the heart and the vessels around it to properly determine how advanced the disease is and allow us to develop the safest treatment plan possible.
Our doctors are experts at handling all stages of heartworm disease and will do whatever they can to help your pet. We offer only the safest, state-of-the-art, FDA-approved heartworm treatment, and we’ve helped hundreds of pets overcome the disease.
Contact Us Today
As avid pet lovers, we understand just how serious and emotionally draining the risk of heartworm disease can be. That’s why we’ll do whatever we can to help your dog, cat or other pet stay safe. Contact us today to schedule a physical or to learn more about heartworms.