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Heartworm Disease and Prevention

HEARTWORM DISEASE is a serious and fatal illness of dogs (and sometimes cats) caused by the worm called Dirofilaria immitis.  The worm is found in the heart and great vessels of infected dogs.  One dog can have as many as 300 worms inside the heart!

TRANSMISSION of the disease occurs when a mosquito bites an infected dog and ingests baby heartworms called “microfilaria”.  These microfilaria develop into “infective larvae” inside the
mosquito.  When the mosquito feeds on the next dog, these infective larvae are injected under that dog’s skin.  These larvae grow for 3-4 months and travel to the dog’s heart where they develop into adult heartworms and the cycle is ready to repeat itself.  It is important to understand that only one mosquito bite is required for your dog to get this deadly disease!  

SIGNS of the disease often occur only after severe heart damage or other complications have
occurred and this is why prevention and early detection are so important.  Signs include cough, weight loss, weakness, and poor general condition.

DIAGNOSIS is made with the help of simple blood tests although an infected dog may need X-rays, organ function tests and an EKG.

TREATMENT if a dog becomes infected is very involved and expensive, and some dogs will die due to complications from the disease.

PREVENTION is by far the safer way to go and highly advised.  After a dog tests negative for the disease, a simple monthly pill (Heartgard) or twice yearly injection (Proheart) is given as a preventative.  We have three options for prevention:

MINIMAL: dogs tested at least every year at least to be sure they are disease free.
BETTER: dogs tested every year and on prevention at least during the spring/summer.
BEST: dogs tested every year and on year-round comprehensive preventative.**
(**pets on yearly prevention from us will be allowed to test every other year at their option**)