Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes. An infected mosquito bites a pet, delivering the microscopic heartworm larvae that eventually develops and migrates into a one foot long worm living in the major blood vessels around the heart.
Infected pets may not show outward symptoms of disease for many months after infection has occured. Symptoms may include: unexplained weight loss, appetite loss, lethargy, inability to exercise or play, hacking cough, collapse, and death.
Heartworm disease has been detected in all 50 states. All dogs are at risk and cats can be infected as well. Having long hair or living mostly indoors does NOT prevent heartworm disease!
While heartworm disease is curable, the treatment is harsh for the dog as well as expensive. Treatment centers around: Immiticide injections in the back muscles to kill adult worms, antibiotics to weaken the parasites, anti-inflammatories to lessen side effects of worm death, and strict cage confinement for 2 to 3 months to prevent possibly fatal embolism. Some dogs can have lasting heart disease even after treatment is complete and may need life long heart supportive medications. We encourage all dogs to be on year round heartworm prevention and to be tested annually.
There are several heartworm prevention options available - for example, chewable tablets given every 30 days or an injection that lasts for 6 months. Talk to your veterinarian for specifc recommendations for your pet.
Did you know that most heartworm prevention companies will help pay for heartworm treatment if:
1) you keep your pet on year round protection
2) you purchase the heartworm prevention directly from your veterinarian
3) you have your pet tested for heartworms annually
To learn more about heartworm disease, prevention, and treatment: visit www.heartwormsociety.org
To view heartworm disease prevalence maps by state and county: