What is Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

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

Diagnosing heartworm

It is important to test your dog for heartworm annually, as there are no clear early signs of the illness. Early detection increases the chances of recovery. A fast blood test can detect heartworms. If your dog shows symptoms such as coughing, reluctance to exercise, or poor physical condition, it might have heartworm disease.

Preventing heartworm

It is important to administer your dog’s heartworm preventative on the same day every month to ensure protection against the disease. Additionally, it is recommended to consider using a mosquito repellent product to prevent your dog from being bitten by mosquitoes. To ensure that the preventive measures have been successful, we will test your dog for heartworms during their annual preventive care appointment. Your dog may be more vulnerable to heartworm infection if:

  • The person missed taking their scheduled dose of preventive medication
  • The preventive medication was administered late
  • The dog either spit out or vomited the preventative

If left 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

Mosquito bites can transmit heartworm larvae to dogs. These larvae travel through the dog’s body and eventually settle in the lungs and heart’s blood arteries. Over 6 months, they mature into heartworms that can grow up to 12 inches long. Adult heartworms then reproduce and release young heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream, continuing the cycle when another mosquito bites the dog.

If your dog needs a heartworm test, yearly preventive care appointment, or heartworm preventative refill, or if your puppy is displaying symptoms of a heartworm infection, please call us.