Heartworm is a parasitic disease caused by dirofilaria immitis, a type of roundworm. This disease is a well-known problem among cats and dogs, but you may not know that it can affect your ferret, too. Here are four things ferret owners need to know about heartworm disease.
How does heartworm disease spread?
Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes contract heartworm when they feed on animals that are already infected, and when those mosquitoes feed on healthy animals, the worms are passed on. Your ferret may be bitten by infected mosquitoes while they're playing in your backyard, but even indoor ferrets can be exposed to mosquitoes.
If one of your ferrets gets heartworm disease, the others can't catch it from their cage mate. The only way heartworm disease spreads is through mosquito bites, not directly from pet to pet.
What are the signs of heartworm disease?
Ferrets can get very sick even when few worms are present. A single dirofilaria immitis worm can lead to heartworm disease in ferrets since their hearts are so small. Usually, ferrets are infected with between one and 20 worms, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
If your ferret develops heartworm disease, you'll notice that they're lethargic. Sick ferrets also develop coughs and have difficulty breathing. Another possible symptom is ascites, meaning the buildup of fluid inside the peritoneal cavity. This makes your ferret's abdomen swollen and painful. If you notice these signs, take your ferret to an emergency vet right away.
Can heartworm disease kill ferrets?
Heartworm disease is very serious, and if left untreated, it can kill ferrets. This is because the worms block blood flow to the heart, which can cause heart failure. To protect your pet's heart, make sure to get them prompt treatment.
How do vets treat it?
The main treatment for heartworm disease in ferrets is low-dose ivermectin. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug that kills the larval stage of the heartworms. The drug doesn't kill adult heartworms, but it shortens their lives, which is still helpful. There are medications available that can kill adult heartworms, but they can cause additional health problems in ferrets and are not recommended.
Once your ferret has recovered, you'll need to take steps to keep them from getting re-infected. To do this, you'll need to keep your ferret from getting bitten by mosquitoes. The easiest way to do this is to keep your ferret indoors, and to ensure that their indoor area is screened to keep mosquitoes out.
If you think your ferret is suffering from heartworm disease, see an emergency vet like Munster Animal Hospital right away.
My name is Shawna Banks and this is a blog that focuses on health issues that affect women. I became interested in women's health when my sister began having medical problems. After her condition worsened, she went to see a doctor. After her diagnosis and successful treatment, I helped her research the different kinds of health conditions that are common in women. By becoming knowledgeable about these types of problems, we can keep ourselves healthier. I hope that when you read this blog, it will help you to identify symptoms that shouldn't be ignored. If necessary, you can schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.