Heart worms are not like most parasites that we discover our pet to have. They can be discovered by elimination such as vomit or even seen in stool. Many pet owners are unaware of how heart worm is spread. The dog gets bit by an infected mosquito and from there, the larvae enter the bloodstream through the bite wound. The larvae then turn into adult worms that live in the heart. This causes serious damage and even death. Heart worm can only be discovered through a blood test done in the vet office.

Few to no symptoms are seen in the beginning. The longer the pet has had the infection, you may start to notice fatigue, coughing, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The best thing to do is get your pet tested every year. Early detection gives your pet a much higher chance for a positive outcome with treatment, the earlier the better. Treatment can be very expensive, long, painful and may be fatal.

The best course to take is to just prevent this whole situation by keeping the dog on heartworm prevention starting at 8 weeks of age year-round. There are a few different options for prevention. One would be giving the pet a chew every 30 days or an injection every 6 or 12 months. Testing the pet annually is crucial to making sure your pet has not contracted heartworm. Always remember… prevention is key!!!

Things To Know:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test
  • Adult dogs (over 7 months of age) that are previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention
  • If there has been a lapse in prevention dogs should be tested immediately, then tested again six months later and annually after that
  • Heartworm affects cats differently than dogs, the worms cannot reproduce inside of a cat
  • Heartworm infection is often silent until disease is significant
  • No medication exists to treat heartworm in cats
  • Prevention is safe, effective, and cost-effective

Four Stages of Heartworm

  1. Mosquito bites an infected pet, ingesting heartworm microfilariae