April is National Heartworm Prevention Month. AMC is dedicated to making sure your pets are protected; helping our lowcountry clients ensure their dogs and cats receive monthly preventative medication.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets; transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets. Causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body – if untreated, Heartworm disease can also cause death. Fortunately, our veterinarians can screen your Beaufort pet for infection and provide monthly preventative medications to protect your pet, year round.
The symptoms of heartworm disease are subtle and can be easy to miss. As the number of heartworms increases, the symptoms of coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, lack of appetite and weight loss become
more apparent. However our doctors warn that it is important not to wait until symptoms develop since irreversible damage may have already occurred by then.
Heartworm is prevalent here in the lowcountry!
Heartworm disease is more prevalent in the southeast and along the Mississippi River. Studies by the American Heartworm Society (AHS) have found that heartworm infections are increasing across the US. While most people know that heartworm disease affects dogs, many are unaware that it can also affect cats. The fact is any animal can be bitten by a mosquito and therefore become infected with the parasite. Speak with your veterinarian at Animal Medical Center of the Lowcountry or Animal Medical Center West, about your particular pet’s risks and how to protect them.
How is it diagnosed?
Dr Guilloud, Dr Wreden and Dr Cifranick frequently run tests for Heartworm disease in Beaufort – it is most commonly diagnosed using a simple blood test which detects the presence of heartworms. These fast, simple tests are completed in our hospitals and can provide results within minutes. Depending on the test results and the animal’s symptoms additional laboratory tests, radiographs and a cardiac ultrasound may also be recommended to determine infection and severity.
How is it treated?
The goal of treatment is to kill the heartworms without harming the patient. Fortunately, the treatment options have improved but they still have potential risks. Infected animals usually receive a series of intramuscular injections, hospitalization and then strict confinement to limit exercise for weeks. The fact is, treatment is expensive, time consuming and not without risks. For these reasons the goal should always be prevention rather than treatment of this horrible disease.
The best way to treat heartworm disease is to prevent it in the first place. Fortunately, there are numerous safe and effective preventative medications available. Heartworm preventative medications are available from your veterinarian at both Animal Medical Center hospitals. In addition to protecting your pets from heartworm disease, many of the heartworm preventatives also protect your pet against other internal parasites. This is important because it helps prevent the spread of parasites. So not only are you getting heartworm protection for your pet but also peace of mind that your pet has not picked up parasites like roundworms that can be transmitted to other pets and even humans. Finally, before starting preventative medications on pets over 6 months of age, have your Animal Medical Center veterinarian test them for heartworm infection because serious complications can develop if an infected animal is started on certain preventatives.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us at Animal Medical Center, Beaufort, SC – our veterinarians are the best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.