Heartworm Disease in Dogs – Everything You Need to Know

Heartworms are a type of roundworm that live in the heart, lungs, and nearby blood vessels of infected animals, causing a potentially fatal illness called heartworm disease. Even though it can be treated, heartworm infection can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs. 

Preventing heartworm

It’s vital to give your dog a heartworm preventative on the same day every month to protect them against the disease. Additionally, you should consider using a mosquito-repelling product to prevent your dog from getting bitten in the first place. To ensure the success of the prevention treatment, we will include a heartworm checkup during your dog’s annual preventive care appointment. Your dog may be at a higher risk of heartworm infection if:

  • There was a missed dose of preventive medication
  • The preventive medication was administered after the scheduled time
  • The dog either spat out or vomited the preventive

Untreated heartworm infections can become more severe over time. Even after treatment, heartworms can still affect a dog’s health and quality of life.

How heartworm is spread

If a mosquito bites a dog, it can give the dog heartworm larvae. The larvae travel through the dog’s body and reach the blood arteries near the lungs and heart. Over the next 6 months, the larvae mature into adult heartworms that can be as long as 12 inches. These adult heartworms can reproduce and release more young heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream, which can then be picked up by another mosquito and passed on to another dog. 

Diagnosing heartworm

It is important to test your dog annually for heartworm disease because there are usually no early signs. The sooner you detect the illness, the better chances for your dog’s recovery. A simple blood test can detect heartworms. If your dog shows symptoms such as coughing, decreased energy, and poor physical condition, it may already have heartworm disease.

If your dog needs a heartworm test, yearly preventive care appointment, heartworm preventative refill, or displays symptoms of heartworm infection, please give us a call.