Heartworms in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Posted By: Emah Madegwa | February 7, 2017

Taking care of pets often involves visits to the Veterinary Clinic. A monthly or annual checkup can do wonders to ensure your dog stays healthy and happy. Besides, there are a few things you can control. Mosquito bites for instance have no control, especially when you are outdoors. Moreover, this mosquito bite could further result in heartworms in dogs. Furthermore, heartworms could be fatal to your dog.

Facts to know about heartworms in dogs 

  • It only takes one bite of a mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae, to cause heartworm disease in your dogs.
  • It takes about seven months for heartworms to mature to do a major damage.
  • A dog can have as many as 250 worms in their system
  • Heartworms can live up to 7 years.
  • Heartworms only affect pets not humans, and they are not contagious to other dogs.


The symptoms include a soft, dry cough; weight loss or anorexia; inactivity or lethargy; difficult or rapid breathing; allergic reaction; bulging chest; and collapse.
• Class I heartworm disease is usually asymptomatic or doesn’t exhibit visible symptoms
• Class II heartworm disease exhibit coughing and lethargy
• It is categorized as severe and may result in chronic heart failure and death.

It is possible that the dogs you adopt especially from public shelters may have heartworms. Check them for infections.

Treatment and Prevention

The heartworm disease in dogs is treated depending on its severity. Also, there are extensive pre-treatment workup and tests available, to establish the level of infection and to ensure safety.
Primarily, the vet kills adult heartworms in the blood vessels with the use of injectable arsenic-based products, given two to three times. Furthermore, in severe cases, they remove the adult worms with surgical procedures. Finally, a monthly prophylaxis follows the treatment or surgery, to eliminate microfilariae in the body.

To reduce the risk of heartworms in dogs, take advantage of routine heart-worm prophylaxis, especially if you live in locations where mosquitoes are predominant. Although it is difficult to determine an infected mosquito, it is best to use preventative measures. There are monthly pills, monthly topicals for the skin, and injectable products good for 6 months, available. In addition, the cost of preventive prophylaxis is much cheaper than the treatment.

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