What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease caused by a worm that is transferred by mosquitos. When a mosquito takes a blood meal from a dog infected with heartworms, the microfilaria enter the mosquito, and molt into the larval stage. When the infected mosquito bites your dog, the larva travel into the dog where they grow, and eventually enter the dog’s circulatory system where they mature into adult heartworms. Full grown heartworms can be as long as 10-12 inches, and accumulate in the dog’s heart, where they can cause liver & kidney disease, & eventually heart failure.

What is the prevalence of Heartworm Disease?

According to the American Heartworm Society, heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states across the US. Additionally, the number of heartworm positive cases has increased in recent years.

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

 The symptoms of heartworm disease can vary depending on the severity of the case, and sometimes a dog will not show any symptoms at all. Some of the signs that can be seen include coughing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, weakness, loss of consciousness, fluid in the abdomen, & an enlarged liver.  A very serious condition called caval syndrome develops when the adult heartworms block all or part of the blood flow from the heart. In this situation quick intervention is required to produce a positive outcome.

How is Heartworm Treated?

Treatment for heartworm disease is an expensive and lengthy process that can leave the dog with lasting complications from the disease. A series of intramuscular Melarsomine injections is the only way of treating the disease, and is accompanied by steroids, antibiotics, heartworm preventatives, and exercise restriction. In the case of caval syndrome the only treatment is to have the worms surgically removed from the heart, which places the dog at risk due to his decreased heart and liver function.

How Can Heartworm be prevented?

Here at the North Canton Vet Clinic we recommend preventing heartworms by putting your dog on a heartworm preventative year round, and using a flea/tick product that repels mosquitos. This double defense is recommended by many of the leading experts in veterinary medicine including AAHA and the American Heartworm Society. We recommend year round prevention even in the winter when mosquitos aren’t as prevalent because according to the American Heartworm Society while transmission of the disease does decrease in the winter it never fully stops.

What Heartworm Preventative Products do we offer at our clinic?

There are many different kinds of heartworm prevention offered. Here at our clinic we offer a chewable tablet called Interceptor Plus that needs to be administered once a month, or Pro-Heart which is an injectable prevention given by our Doctors or Technician’s that will last 6 months. Not all flea/tick preventative products also repel mosquitos so labels must be read closely, or check with your veterinarian about which products are suitable. Currently, we carry a topical flea/tick preventative called Vectra that also repels mosquitos. This is a good choice for dogs that spend a lot of time outside or in the woods such as hunting dogs, or dogs that do a lot of hiking.

Here is more information regarding Heartworm disease and prevention:

Heartworm Basics

FDA: Heartworm Info

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)


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