What is canine heartworm?

Canine heartworm is a disease that afflicts dogs, caused by the infection of heartworms. The dogs contract larvae that travel to their hearts, grow there, and lead to severe health problems.

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

Can heartworm disease be prevented?

Indeed, there are numerous heartworm preventatives available in various forms on the market.

What are some signs that my dog might have heartworms?

Look for signs such as lethargy, intolerance to exercise, coughing, changes in behavior, and unexplained weight loss in your dog, as these are common symptoms of heartworm infection.

What are some middle to late stage symptoms of heartworm disease?

Severe symptoms in the middle to late stages of heartworm disease include serious coughing, hacking, and even collapse. In extreme cases, the disease can be fatal.

What can be done to stabilize my dog's heartworm disease?

As a first step, you should take your dog to a veterinarian to confirm the heartworm infection. If the diagnosis is positive, the vet will initiate a treatment plan that often includes an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory to reduce the inflammation caused by the heartworms in the heart and lungs. If the condition is severe, you may need to consult a veterinary cardiologist.

How will a veterinarian diagnose if my pet has heartworm disease?

Heartworms can be easily detected in the bloodstream. This is usually done using a small amount of blood and a quick snap test that takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworms so important?

Early detection is crucial because heartworms cause significant inflammation in the heart. If left untreated, this inflammation can lead to heart failure.

How soon should I bring in my dog to see a veterinarian to start heartworm prevention?

Heartworm prevention can start as early as 8 to 12 weeks depending on the products used, but it should begin as soon as possible. If you adopt a dog, it is recommended to take them to a vet immediately to start them on preventative medication.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (407) 896-0941, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 1

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

What are some ways to treat canine heartworm?

When we treat canine heartworm, we typically use a fast kill method. This involves using an injectable called Diroban to kill the heartworms immediately.

What are the different stages of heartworm disease?

There are four different stages of heartworm disease. Stage one is when the dog is infected with the larvae, and you might not even notice anything at this point. Stage two is characterized by a bit of exercise intolerance and a mild cough. Stage three is more severe, with a much more hacking cough and an increased amount of exercise intolerance. Stage four is the worst stage, where the dog may exhibit severe exercise intolerance, and sometimes even collapse. At this stage, the dog is most likely in congestive heart failure and it can even lead to death.

What can I expect from a veterinary visit if my dog is positive for heartworms?

If your dog tests positive for heartworms, the veterinarian will discuss doing chest x-rays and putting the dog on medications. They will also talk about heartworm treatment options. In some cases, they may recommend you to see a cardiologist before starting the heartworm treatment.

How many heartworm treatments will my dog need?

Typically, we administer three heartworm treatments. We start with one injection and then a month later we give two injections.

Will heartworm treatment cure my dog?

Heartworm treatment normally cures most dogs the first time around. However, sometimes a second round of treatment may be necessary if the first one doesn't kill all of the adult heartworms. Usually, we retest in six months to see if we need to retreat or if we can just continue with heartworm prevention.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 2

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

What is dog heartworm?

The canine heartworm is a parasite that lives within the heart. It can also be found in other places, but its usual habitat is the heart and the lungs.

What's the cycle of the heartworm and how can this information be beneficial to the treatment of my dog?

Heartworms have multiple life stages. They start as larvae, known as microfilaria, which live in the bloodstream and then move to the heart. These larvae are usually picked up by mosquitoes and then transmitted to another dog. This larva that circulates through the bloodstream goes into the heart and takes about six months to develop into a fully mature adult heartworm.

Can my indoor dog get heartworm disease?

Yes, definitely. Even in places like Florida where we have mosquitoes indoors, dogs can still be affected by heartworms even if they stay inside all the time.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 3

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

What does dog heartworm testing entail?

Dog heartworm testing only requires a couple of drops of blood and a quick test that takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

When should my dog be tested for heartworms?

We recommend testing your dog for heartworms as soon as you foster or adopt them. However, if they're puppies, we usually don't test them until they're at least a year of age.

How often should my dog be tested for heartworm disease?

We advise testing your dog for heartworm disease once a year to ensure everything is working correctly.

If my dog tests positive, will I need additional testing?

Yes, additional testing may be recommended in case of positive results, as there can be some false positives. To confirm the diagnosis, we usually send an extra sample to the lab.

If my dog is on prevention, do I still need my yearly heartworm test?

Yes, it's crucial to continue with the yearly heartworm test even if your dog is on prevention. This is because some heartworms are resistant to certain medications, and we need to ensure any potential infestation is dealt with promptly.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 4

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

How soon after infection will a dog show signs of heartworm disease?

It takes up to six months for the heartworms to fully develop into adults. Therefore, you're not likely to notice any signs until then. The symptoms also depend on the worm burden that the dog carries.

What are the possible signs that my dog has heartworm disease?

The possible signs that your dog has heartworm disease include coughing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, and weight loss.

Is heartworm painful to my dog?

Heartworm is not necessarily painful for dogs, but it is uncomfortable. This discomfort is primarily due to the inflammation it causes in the heart and the lungs.

Are heartworms visible?

Heartworms are not normally visible unless they are not inside the heart. It's rare, but occasionally they can migrate to other organs, including the skin, and in these cases, you might see them crawling through there.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 5

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

Is heartworm common in dogs?

Heartworm is very common in dogs, especially depending on the part of the country that you're in.

What are the complications of heartworm disease in canines?

The complications of heartworm disease include exercise intolerance, coughing, potential heart disease and death.

Are there risks associated with the treatment for each stage of heartworm?

Yes, there are risks. The greater the stage, the more risk that you take when you're doing heartworm treatment. So you want to catch it as early as you can.

Are there side effects to the medication used to prevent heartworm disease?

It is very rare for dogs to have complications. Most of the side effects involve a little bit of GI issue and of course they could have allergic reactions, but these drugs are usually typically very safe.

What are the risks if canine heartworm is left untreated?

The main risk is congestive heart failure leading to death.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 6

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

What causes dog heartworm disease?

Canine heartworm disease is caused by heartworms, which are parasites that live in the bloodstream.

How are heartworms transmitted?

Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitoes. Mosquitoes take a blood meal from a dog, which contains the heartworm larvae, and then they go and drink from another dog where they inject some of that blood with the microfilaria into the next dog.

How does my dog's lifestyle affect the risk for heartworm disease?

The more time dogs spend outside, the higher their risk of contracting heartworm disease. However, even indoor dogs, especially in areas like Florida, can still come in contact with mosquitoes and are therefore also at risk.

Dog Heartworm - FAQs 7

Dr. Amanda German
Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital

How is heartworm prevented in canines?

Heartworm disease is prevented by using different oral, topical, or injectable medications.

When should I start heartworm prevention for my dog?

We usually start puppies at 8 to 12 weeks of age, depending on the type of prevention. Once you adopt a dog, that's when you want to go ahead and get started as well.

How effective is heartworm prevention?

Heartworm prevention is very effective. As long as the heartworms aren't resistant to the medications, then it will kill all of them.

Does my dog still need a heartworm test if they're on the prevention?

Yes, I still recommend testing them every year because there are some heartworms that are resistant to these medications.

Can prevention be used to clear a heartworm infestation?

It can. It just takes a much longer period of time than the fast kill method that we recommend. So while they're sitting there in that heart during that time, they can actually be causing much more damage.

What should I do if I miss a dose of my dog's heartworm prevention?

Get them their next dose immediately and then we're going to want to recheck that heartworm test in about six months.

Are there any holistic or over-the-counter canine heartworm preventatives?

Not that we recommend.

Can I do anything in my dog's environment to reduce the risk of heartworm?

Make sure that they're being treated and try to decrease their risk for coming in contact with mosquitoes. So make sure you get rid of any non-moving bodies of water, such as just pots sitting with water in them or just bowls. You want to try to keep those rinsed out and keep those clean. You can also spray your yard with different antibiotics.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (407) 896-0941, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram