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Heart Worm Disease Prevention and Treatment

heart-wormWhat is Heart Worm Disease?

Heart Worm disease is a serious illness that affects dogs, cats and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic nematode (the roundworm) commonly referred to as the heartworm. Heartworm disease is preventable with the administration of a heartworm prophylaxis, a preventative medication, as recommended by a veterinarian. At Cornerstone Animal Hospital, your pet has a wide range of choices for heart worm prevention at very affordable prices.

Click here to watch a Video on Heart Worm Disease

Where it is prevalent?

For Prevalence in USA please click this link from The Heartworm Society.

Is it preventable?
Heartworm disease is preventable with the administration of a heartworm prophylaxis (preventative) medication, as recommended by a veterinarian.

At Cornerstone Animal Hospital, your pet has a wide range of choices for heart worm prevention at very affordable prices. Please make use of our great promotions on Heart worm medications.

Dogs with a milder form of the disease are often asymptomatic, meaning they exhibit no visible symptoms, or may only exhibit minimal signs such as an occasional cough. Patients with a moderate form of the disease usually exhibit coughing and an unusual intolerance to exercise. The most severe cases may show symptoms of anemia, fainting spells, and in severely affected dogs, right-sided chronic heart failure.

The simplest way to diagnose infection is to administer the Heartworm Test at your North Richland Hills and Colleyville veterinarian's office. At Cornerstone Animal Hospital, this test takes less than fifteen minutes. Dogs that are six months or older should have a negative heartworm test before starting heartworm prevention. Even if they were on prevention from 8 weeks onwards, a puppy should be tested negative at 6 months of age to continue on heartworm prevention. It takes 6 months for the heart worms to reach the adult stage ie: from a mosquito biting your dog to reach mature heart worms and hence for the test to be positive. It is risky and sometimes life threatening to administer heart worm prevention, in case if your pet is positive for heart worms. Please refer to the link to know about the life cycle and more details about heart worms.
If heartworm disease is suspected, an electrocardiograph will reveal heart rhythm disturbances and/or enlargement of the right ventricle of the heart (hypertrophy). Our hospital may do additional tests including a urine analysis and X-rays.

Heartworms are spread through mosquitos that carry the infective heartworm larvae. These larvae migrate from the bite wound through the dog’s body until they reach the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, a process that takes approximately six months. The larvae mature in the dog’s body and can even grow to be about 12 inches long. These adults reproduce and release immature heartworms, known as microfilariae, directly into the dog’s blood. The severity of this disease is directly dependent upon the number of worms present in the body, the duration of the infestation, and the response of the host.

Heartworm Treatment
Once your pet is diagnosed positive for heartworms, they need to be treated promptly. The initial heartworm treatment at Cornerstone Animal Hospital is designed to kill the adult heartworms. This is done by careful screening (staging) of the patient by physical examination X -Ray, Blood work, ECG recording  and urine test. If the heart worm disease is very severe, it may be even a risk to treat them. Once they are found to be safe to be treated, the injection to kill adult worms are given on 3 occasions. Very careful monitoring is needed at this time due to the chances of reactions and therefore the pet will be hospitalized. Pain medications and other supportive care are also part the protocol at Cornerstone Animal Hospital.  A pre-treatment with an antibiotic before starting the injections is often done as part of the protocol. The young ones (larvae) in the body can be eliminated with a monthly prophylaxis. The treated pet will be on this preventive medications and they will be heartworm tested again 4-6 months after treatment.

Management of the pet after heartworm treatment
Upon initial heartworm treatment at Cornerstone Animal Hospital, we recommend that activity should be severely restricted for at least four to six weeks after administration of the adulticide. We also recommend an antigen test 4-6 months after treatment to check for continued presence of the adult heartworm. If the test is positive, the adulticide treatment can be repeated, or a surgical procedure performed instead.

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