Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the heart and arteries of the lungs of dogs. Heartworm disease is found in all 50 states, and all dogs are susceptible to heartworm infection.
Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites. When a mosquito carrying infective heartworm larvae bites a dog, it transmits the infection and the larvae grow and migrate in the dog's body over the course of several months. Mature worms reside in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Recently infected dogs may show no signs of disease. Over time, infected dogs will develop a cough, become easily fatigued, have decreased appetites and weight loss. An infected dog can have difficulty breathing, retain fluid in the abdomen, or have an enlarged liver. Without treatment, heartworm-infected dogs will die. Heartworm infection is usually detected with a blood test, and your veterinarian will perform this test annually.
Most cases of heartworm can be treated, but treatment is expensive and requires complete exercise restriction for several months. Prevention is much easier, much safer, and more economical. There are a variety of heartworm preventatives available from your veterinarian here at Glencoe Animal Hospital. Most are given monthly and have the added benefit of treating intestinal parasites as well as preventing heartworm disease. The American Heartworm Society recommends year round prevention.
Please contact the hospital if you have more questions about heartworm disease, heartworm prevention, or to schedule your dog for a checkup and heartworm test.
Sara Grogman, DVM