What are Heartworms? Q/A

Heartworms are parasites that live in the heart and vessels of the lungs causing scarring and long-term damage to the heart and lungs.

How does my pet contract heartworm disease?
Heartworm larvae (microfilaria) are in the bloodstream of infected animals. When a mosquito feeds on an infected animal, it takes the larvae and deposits them into the next animal it feeds on, therefore spreading the disease. If a pet is not given a heartworm preventative within 30 days of being bit by an infected mosquito, the larvae can continue through the life cycle and cause heartworm disease in our pets.

How do I prevent heartworm disease?
There are many different prescription heartworm preventatives available and your veterinarian can help you decide which preventative is right for your pet. There are potential side effects in heartworm positive dogs, so we require a heartworm test before starting preventatives. Heartworm testing is also recommended on a regular basis to make sure there have not been any failures in the medications.

Are heartworms a problem in our area?
Yes! We recommend year round preventative. Here is a map of the prevalence of disease in the United States from the American Heartworm Society. According to recent data from the American Heartworm Society, there has been over a 20% increase in heartworm positive cases in the US since 2013, making keep your pet on a heartworm prevention paramount to avoiding this costly disease.

How do we treat heartworm disease and what are the symptoms?
Heartworm disease has to be advanced before you see symptoms including coughing, labored breathing, and heart problems. Heartworm disease is best treated before permanent damage has occurred resulting in the symptoms above. The first step in treating heartworm disease is testing for heartworms. We then start them on medications including a heartworm preventative and antibiotic followed by an injection to kill the adult heartworms. If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, consult with your veterinarian a treatment plan.