Heartworm Disease- The Tale of a Broken Heart

Heartworm Disease- The Tale of a Broken Heart

As we enter in to the warmer months here in Indiana, we at South Anderson Veterinary Clinic would like to touch on a topic that most, if not all, of you have heard of but may not know as much as you should: heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease is a preventable disease that, if contracted, is often fatal and leads to significant lung and heart disease. Many dogs with heartworm disease already have signs of congestive heart failure at the time of presentation and will be on life-long medications to help support their heart. Heartworms can infect dogs, cats, and several other wild animals including foxes, coyotes, raccoons, etc. Even if your pet only goes outside to potty, they are still at risk of an infected mosquito bite in that amount of time. And if you pet is only inside, think about those pesky mosquitos that sneak in when you open your door!

How does your pet get heartworm disease? These parasites are transmitted from animal to animal through mosquito bites. The mosquito must first take a blood meal from an infected pet, the microfilariae (baby heartworms) that it picks up then develop in the mosquito for 2 weeks to become infective larvae. When the mosquito takes its next blood meal from another pet it then transfers these infective larvae to the new pet. If you pet is the unlucky one that gets bit by this mosquito and is not on their monthly preventive (or is late), these larvae will develop into adult worms. The larvae spend the next 6 months travelling through your pet's body until they reach the heart, where they then infect the vessels in the lungs and heart as adult worms. Once infected with these worms your pet may develop signs related to worm migration, like coughing, or even systemic (full body) reactions from the new microfilariae (baby worms) that circulate through your pet's blood stream.

Treatment of heartworms, should your pet become infected, is possible for dogs but there is no current treatment protocol that is safe for cats. In dogs, we will need to check that your pet is healthy enough to go through treatment by performing bloodwork and chest x-rays. Even when our pets appear healthy with normal x-rays and bloodwork the inflammation in the body as these worms die can cause serious, potentially life-threatening complications. During treatment (over the course of 4-6 months) your pet would need to be strictly confined to try to avoid the dying worms to become lodged in the small blood vessels in the lungs. It is also important to note that the treatment is not only though for your dog it is also extremely costly!

 At South Anderson Veterinary Clinic we aim to prevent heartworm disease for your pet by offering testing and year-round prevention with products such as Revolution or Sentinel. If you are not already using heartworm prevention monthly, year-round, please contact our offices to schedule a visit today. It is important to note that there are ZERO over-the-counter products that cover heartworms, you must get this from a veterinarian or have a prescription to purchase these products written by your veterinarian.  Your pet’s health is our priority.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact us today!


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