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Dog Heartworm - Everything You Need to Know About Heartworm Disease In Dogs and How To Prevent It

What is heartworm disease and how can it affect my dog?

Heartworm disease is caused by the organism Dirofilaria immitis, which travels in the bloodstream and causes damage to a dog's heart and lungs leading to unrepairable damage and sometimes death.

Cherry Douglas, DVM
Village Square Veterinary Clinic

How would my dog catch heartworm?

Heartworm larvae are picked up by a mosquito that bites an infected dog. This mosquito then bites your dog and injects the larva into its body. The larva goes through some larval stages and then develops into adult heartworms in the dog's bloodstream. The adults travel to the heart and lungs where they cause the symptoms that we see with the disease.

Can dog heartworm be prevented?

Yes! It is easily prevented with a monthly chewable tablet that most dogs will happily eat like a treat.

What are the signs in my dog that would indicate they may have heartworm disease?

The signs that may indicate a heartworm infection are lethargy, persistent cough and weight loss.

What are some middle to late-stage symptoms of heartworm disease?

More severe infections can cause abnormal breathing sounds, difficulty breathing, a thin or emaciated appearance, an enlarged liver, and a heart murmur.

What can be done to stabilize my dog's heartworm disease?

The American Heartworm Society has a recommended protocol that most veterinarians follow to diagnose, manage and treat heartworms in dogs. You need to follow the treatment plan determined by your veterinarian by giving medications as prescribed, restricting your dog's exercise, and following up with recommended testing and prevention.

How soon should I bring in my dog to see a veterinarian for heartworm prevention?

The best answer is as soon as you adopt your dog. Dogs as young as 8-12 weeks of age should be started on an FDA-approved heartworm preventative and it should be given throughout the dog's entire life span.

How will a veterinarian diagnose if my dog has heartworms?

Diagnosis is made with just a few drops of blood that can be tested in the office or sent to an outside laboratory. According to the AHS, all dogs should be tested annually even if they are taking a monthly preventative.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworm so important?

Early detection and diagnosis are important because they increase the likelihood of a cure with less severe damage to the heart and lungs of the dog, as well as an increased chance of survival.

If you have any questions regarding dog heartworm disease, give us a call. We want you to be well informed of this serious disease in dogs.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (561) 369-0061, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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