Heartworm Prevention And Treatment For Pets- Cats, Dogs & Ferrets

Published on Feb 2, 2023 12:00 AM
Heartworm Prevention And Treatment For Pets- Cats, Dogs & Ferrets

Heartworm disease is a serious parasite infestation in dogs, cats, and ferrets with varying prevention measures and treatments.

Heartworm larvae enter a pet's body through mosquito bites and travel through the bloodstream to infect the heart and lung arteries. Though the disease cannot be transmitted between pets, mosquitos can spread it after biting infected pets.

The early symptoms of heartworm disease are subtle and easily missed, such as a mild cough, decreased appetite, and weight loss. However, the disease progression is characterized by a persistent cough, fatigue after light to moderate activity, difficulty breathing, and a decreased appetite. 

Heartworm disease can harm an animal's heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. It can occur all year round in all 50 states, including in colder climates. When carrier mosquitoes emerge, pets' blood must contain the proper amount of heartworm prevention medication. Medications only target heartworm larvae, not adults.

If you have a dog, have it tested with a simple blood test before beginning medication. Even if your dog takes heartworm medication regularly, testing is still necessary because no drug is 100% effective.

It is critical to ensure that the drug has been effective and that medication delays have not rendered your dog susceptible to the disease. If your dog becomes infected while not on heartworm prevention medication and you resume the medication without first testing for heartworms, you may endanger them.

To kill adult heartworms, an FDA-approved arsenic-containing drug must be used. It is a potentially dangerous treatment procedure. Indoor pets also require heartworm prevention because mosquitos can enter through open doors and windows.

If you have a cat, diagnosing the disease is more complicated. Cats can be subjected to X-rays and ultrasounds in addition to blood tests. According to the FDA, heartworms do not survive as well in cats as they do in dogs, but cats are also at risk for heartworm disease.

There is no FDA-approved treatment for adult heartworms in cats. This adds to the difficulty of diagnosing and treating cats, so prevention is essential all year.

If you have a ferret, testing for heartworms in them is not as easy or reliable as in dogs. In addition, because there is no FDA-approved treatment for killing adult heartworms in ferrets, prevention is critical.

The FDA recommends consulting with your veterinarian about when and how frequently your pet should be tested for heartworms and which type of heartworm prevention medication is best for your pet. Topical treatments may not be appropriate for pets near children. Furthermore, heartworm prevention medications are only available by prescription. The FDA warns consumers to be wary of websites or stores that sell these medications without a prescription.