Heartworm Disease

What Is Heartworm?
Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream harming arteries and vital organs, ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and heart about six months after the initial infection.

What Causes Heartworm?
When an infected mosquito bites your pet, the larvae enter the tissues and migrate into the blood vessels.

What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms include labored breathing, vomiting, lethargy, coughing, fatigue, and on occasion, sudden death; although some pets do not exhibit any symptoms at all.

How Is It Diagnosed?
Heartworm is diagnosed using an in-clinic blood test, radiographs, or ultrasound.

Click here for more information on diagnosing heartworm disease.

Who gets Heartworm?
Dogs, cats, and wild animals living where mosquitoes thrive. Heartworm has been found in all regions.

How Can It Be Prevented?
Heartworm is preventable with an inexpensive, chewable pill available with a prescription. This is administered monthly and recommended year round to prevent other intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms.

Our hospital carries Heartgard Plus, which also protects against roundworms and hookworms. Heartgard Plus is a soft chew that contains real beef and is well tolerated by most dogs. There is a wide safety margin for all dogs and it has been approved for use in puppies as young as 6 weeks of age, small dogs regardless of weight, pregnant or breeding dogs, stud dogs, and all breeds of dogs, including collies.

We follow the American Heartworm Society’s recommendation of year-round administation of heartworm preventive products. This eliminates gaps in protection and helps control roundworm and hookworm infections.

For more information, please visit www.heartgard.com

How Is It Treated?
Dogs are treated with a series of injections of immitecide into the muscle. This treatment requires several months of exercise restriction. There currently is no treatment available for cats.

Click here for more information on the treatment of heartworm disease.

American Heartworm Society Testing Guidelines for Dogs

  • Dogs <7 months of age – not necessary to test
  • Dogs >7 months of age – need an antigen test (in-clinic blood test)
  • If there is a gap in prevention – retest prior to resuming preventive therapy and again 4 to 9 months later
  • When changing from one heartworm preventive to another – test immediately prior to switching and approximately 4 months after beginning a new heartworm preventive.

For more information about testing, please visit www.heartwormsociety.org