What Dog Owners Need to Know About Heartworm

Heartworms in Dogs: Facts and Myths

Heartworm disease is a serious diagnosis, but it is both preventable, and often, treatable. The best way to protect your dog from heartworms is to learn about the condition and know when to see the vet in San Jose for diagnosis and treatment. Here is what you need to know. Heartworms in Dogs: Facts and Myths

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease occurs when a particular type of parasitic roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis infects the heart of a dog. Heartworms are most common in areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, as well as the Ohio and Mississippi basins, but they can do and do appear in all 50 states. Heartworms are transferred to dogs through the bite of an infected mosquito. They cannot be transmitted by infected dogs to other dogs.

What are the symptoms?

Heartworms have a long incubation period, as symptoms do not appear until the larvae transmitted by the mosquito have reached the heart and lungs and grow. This can take six months or more from the time of the bite. Very mild cases of heartworm disease—called Class I—may not cause any symptoms at all. Class II heartworm disease is associated with coughing and new exercise intolerance. Class III is the most severe form of heartworm disease. Dogs with Class III heartworm disease can experience anemia, fainting, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and chronic heart failure. It is important to make an appointment with the vet right away if you see these symptoms. He or she will use a series of tests to determine if your dog has heartworms.

What treatments are available?

Heartworm disease requires aggressive treatment in most cases. Your vet may hospitalize your pet to administer a medication called an adulticide to kill the mature heartworms. After the initial round of medication, your dog will need monthly medications at home. For severe cases, surgery is necessary to remove large numbers of heartworms.

Can heartworm disease by prevented?

Your vet can prescribe a monthly medication that is extremely effective in preventing heartworm infestations. Heartworm prevention should be part of your regular care plan for your dog.