What You Need to Know About Heartworm

Heartworm is a potentially fatal, but nearly 100% preventable, parasite that can infect dogs and other animals. In honor of April being Heartworm Awareness Month, here are the key facts you need to know about heartworm. Read on for heartworm information and talk to your veterinarian about how best to protect your pup.

How do dogs get heartworm?

Heartworm is transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes carrying infected larvae. The disease is not transferable directly from dog to dog.

What does heartworm do?

Adult heartworms clog the heart and major blood vessels which reduces blood supply to vital organs and can cause damage. Immature heartworms, or microfilariae, remain in small blood vessels and may block blood flow in these vessels.

How do I know if my dog at risk for heartworm?

Spread of the disease coincides with mosquito season, which can last all year in many parts of the country. Dogs living in hot, humid areas in which mosquitoes are prevalent are at the greatest risk, however the disease has been seen in every state except Alaska.

How can I tell if my dog has heartworm?

It usually takes several years before dogs show symptoms of infection, however the disease is typically well-advanced by that time. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath, loss of stamina, weight loss and more. Contact your veterinarian if your dog is showing any unusual symptoms or behavior.

How can I prevent heartworm?

It is better for your pup’s health to prevent heartworm than to treat it. Dogs should be screened regularly for heartworm and it is easily preventable with an inexpensive prescription pill or topical medication. The American Heartworm Society recommends giving the medication the entire year, not only during mosquito season. Talk with your veterinarian about heartworm prevention options.

Additional Resources

Check out these resources for even more information: