Heartworm Disease and Prevention

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease of dogs and cats caused by the parasite called dirofilaria immitus. A discussion of the disease, its diagnosis, treatment and prevention is involved and lengthy. If you are interested and have the time we would LOVE to help you understand heartworms. Just ask the next time you are in! In the meantime, here are the “down and dirty” key points you need to know to keep your pet safe from heartworms.

  • Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal parasitic infection of dogs and cats
  • Mosquitos transmit heartworm disease from infected to “new” animals
  • Symptoms in dogs may include cough, lethargy, congestive disease of the heart and lungs. In the early stages, there are often no outward systems at all!
  • Cats get heartworm disease only about one-tenth as often as dogs, but when infected can display severe “asthmatic” signs and sometimes, sudden death
  • Treatment of cats can be difficult
  • Treatment of infected dogs is usually successful if diagnosed early in the course of the illness.
  • Yearly testing of dogs is strongly recommended by the American Hearworm Society (and us!)
  • Heartworm disease can be prevented! We recommend year-round use of preventatives.
  • Heartworm preventatives take many forms. Most are given once monthly–some by mouth, some topical, some in combinations with flea preventatives. There is even a convenient 6-month injection for those who have a hare time remembering. We can help you choose the best drug for your pet!
  • Heartworm preventatives are over 90% effective. That’s great! But that means they are not 100% effective, which emphasizes the importance of yearly testing.