For the Love of Vets

For the Love of Vets

Heartworm In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

Erin Steeves

As a concerned pet parent, you want to make sure your dog stays healthy and happy for as long as possible. Heartworm is a common condition that occurs in dogs that is easily preventable. Unfortunately, if you do not take the steps to prevent or treat heartworm early, it can be fatal. Here are a few answers to some frequently asked questions you might have about canine heartworm.

What Exactly Is Heartworm?

Heartworms are thin, long worms that live in the lungs, heart, and blood vessels in infected dogs. The worms cause serious damage to these organs and, left untreated, can lead to organ failure. The worms are spread by infected mosquitoes and transmitted to the dog by a mosquito bite. Once inside the dog, the heartworm can live inside the dog for several years and can grow several inches long.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm?

Early detection is critical in a heartworm infection. Unfortunately, there are typically no signs of symptoms in the early stages of heartworm infection. As the heartworms mature, the signs typically manifest. Here are a few of the most common symptoms associated with heartworm in dogs:

  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, visit your veterinarian to rule out a heartworm infection.

How Will Your Veterinarian Treat Heartworm?

Unfortunately, if your dog is in the late stages of heartworm disease, it is difficult to treat the condition. Your veterinarian will administer a variety of medications. One medication is used to kill the adult heartworms, while another medication, ivermectin, kills the heartworms in their larval stage.

In cases of advanced heartworm infection, your dog may require hospitalization and intravenous medications.

How Can You Prevent Heartworm?

Luckily, although heartworm is prevalent across the country and it is impossible to know which mosquitoes are infected with heartworm, the condition is easily preventable in dogs. Heartworm preventatives are available from your veterinarian services provider. Although heartworm is more common in the summer months, your dog can get infected whenever mosquitoes are present.

Ask your veterinarian about which heartworm medication is the best option for your dog and how to administer the medication properly.

Heartworm is a common condition that is potentially deadly. Luckily, there are over-the-counter medications available that can help prevent heartworm. If you have any more questions about how to prevent and treat heartworm, contact your veterinarian.


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For the Love of Vets

Did you know that when a veterinarian graduates from veterinary school, they must take an oath before they are allowed to practice? This is similar to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take upon graduating from medical school. The new vets promise that they will work to relieve animal suffering and promote the overall health of pets. They also promise to uphold their profession with dignity. If you have ever taken your pet to the vet, you've probably seen a vet live this oath firsthand. You can be confident your pet is in good hands. Learn more about vets and the wonderful work they do in the articles curated here.