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Heartworm
What is Heartworm Disease?

Every year in the United States, thousands of dogs are infected with Heartworm disease. This disease, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, can cause severe damage to the heart and lungs. Over time, heartworm disease can gradually decrease quality of life and if left untreated can result in fatality.

Though not every mosquito carries the heartworm parasite, infection only requires a single once infected, larvae will be present and begin the growth cycle within the blood stream. Once larvae mature they will lodge into the heart and lungs. From there adult worms can live up to 5 – 7 years, grow as large as 12 inches in length and proliferate to population as high as 250 worms.


Is my dog at risk? Any dog living in an area with a mosquito population is at risk for heartworm disease. Incidence of infection will increase during warmer months but the possibility What are the symptoms? Unfortunately, the onset of heartworm disease is not accompanied by symptoms. However, as time progresses a dog infected may exhibit the following:
  • Coughing
  • Lack of energy
  • Low tolerance for prolonged physical activity
  • Labored breathing/Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal lung sounds
  • Fluid retention
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat (Tachycardia)
Prevention In most cases, heartworm disease is easily prevented. Preventative methods should be administered during any time period where mosquitoes can survive or thrive. Currently, pet owners who wish to protect their pets from this life threatening condition have several options including:
  • Daily/Monthly chewables
  • Bi-annual injectable
  • Monthlyt topical treatment
Treatment Typically, Heartworm treatment can be divided into two essential components: evaluation and elimination.

  1. Evaluation: During this stage of treatment the main goal is to evaluate and then stabilize the infected dog so as to determine the severity of the infection and the best course of action. X-Rays, Blood tests, and heart screenings are all common during this period and will help veterinarians gage the progress or stage of the disease.

  2. Elimination: During this stage of treatment your dog’s medical provider will attempt to eradicate the worms. First he or she will administer medication to kill adult worms, followed by another medication to kill larvae and microfilaria. Depending on the severity of the disease this can be a very taxing time for your pet and therefore rest and strict adherence to veterinarian directions is paramount.


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