DCR Expert Tip

Preventing Heartworms

Keeping those heartworms away

Your pets are susceptible to diseases that humans either rarely or never contract. That's why you have to look out for things like heartworms, which is a serious disease. Heartworms are the result of a parasitic worm known as Dirofilaria immitis. They'll infect your pet's body and cause harm as they mature. The adult worms are a foot long and live in your pet's heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels.

Dogs are the natural hosts for heartworms. The heartworms that infect cats usually won't reach adulthood. As such, we'll mostly go over how heartworms affect dogs.


While the disease is in its early stages, your dog won't show any signs. Here are the signs to watch out for as the disease progresses:

Coughing. It'll start out as a mild cough, but grow more persistent as things get worse. Fatigue. Your dog will become tired more easily. They may show a reluctance to exercise. Breathing troubles. Your dog will have a harder time breathing.  Swollen stomach. At this point, your dog may need surgery. They've developed heart failure and they bear a heavy worm burden. The worms are blocking blood flow back to the heart and must be removed immediately.


There are ways to prevent your dog from contracting heartworms at all. Heartworms are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. That means taking measures to keep them away from your dog. Here are the best ways to prevent heartworms:

Preventative medications. Get in contact with your veterinarian. Have them prescribe pills or topical treatments that help prevent heartworms. Injections could also be administered. Minimize the local mosquito population. You should reduce the amount of nearby standing water, mow the lawn, or use mosquito-repellent plants to keep mosquitoes at bay. Regular screenings. Even when using preventative measures, you should have your dog screened regularly for heartworms.


Keep in contact with your vet so that they can help at a moment's notice. Heartworms are scary, but they're preventable too.

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