Learn About Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworms are a type of roundworm that reside in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels of infected animals, causing a potentially fatal condition known as heartworm disease. Despite being treatable, heartworm infection can cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, and other organs.

How heartworm is spread
Transmission of heartworm occurs when a mosquito bites a dog, transferring heartworm larvae to the dog. These larvae travel through the dog’s body until they reach the blood vessels of the lungs and heart. Over a period of approximately six months, the larvae mature into adult heartworms, reaching lengths of up to 12 inches. The adult heartworms reproduce and release young heartworms into the dog’s blood, continuing the cycle when the dog is bitten by another mosquito.

Diagnosing heartworm
Early detection of heartworm disease is crucial for improving the dog’s chances of recovery. Regular testing is recommended since there are few, if any, early symptoms of the condition. Heartworms can be detected through a simple blood test.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs may include coughing, reduced activity levels, and poor physical condition.

Preventing heartworm
Prevention plays a vital role in protecting your dog from heartworms. Administering a monthly heartworm preventative on a consistent schedule is essential. Additionally, using a mosquito-repelling product can help prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of heartworm transmission.

During your dog’s annual preventive care appointment, we will check for the presence of heartworms to ensure the effectiveness of the preventive medication. It’s important to note that if a dose of preventive medication is missed, given late, or if the dog spits out or vomits the medication, the dog will be at increased risk of heartworm infection.

Heartworm infections can worsen if left untreated for extended periods. Even after treatment, the impact on a dog’s health and quality of life can persist.

If your dog requires a heartworm test, an annual preventive care appointment, a refill of their heartworm preventative medication, or if your puppy displays symptoms that may indicate a heartworm infection, please contact us.