Heartworm in Dogs - Prevention & Treatment

Heartworm disease is a serious, often fatal condition in dogs that can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and more. In this article, our Sharpsburg vets explain why preventing heartworm disease is easier on your pet, and on your wallet than treating the disease after your dog gets ill.

Heartworm Disease in Memphis

Heartworm disease, which is spread through the bite of a mosquito, is primarily caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.

Your dog can serve as a 'definitive host' for this parasite, indicating that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while residing inside your pet. This condition is known as heartworm disease since the worms inhabit the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of an infected pet.

Signs of Heartworm in Dogs

Unfortunately, in dogs, the signs of heartworm disease don’t typically appear until the disease has progressed to more advanced stages. Once symptoms do become evident they include fatigue, swollen abdomen, coughing, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.

Diagnosing Heartworm 

At your veterinarian's office, blood tests can be conducted to identify heartworm proteins, known as antigens, that are discharged into the animal's bloodstream. These antigens typically become detectable approximately five to seven months after your dog has been infected.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Prevention holds significant importance in addressing heartworms due to the potential for treatment to induce severe health complications and toxicity in your dog's system. Moreover, treatment can be financially burdensome, necessitating multiple vet visits, blood tests, x-rays, hospital stays, and a sequence of injections.

If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet can use melarsomine dihydrochloride (which is an arsenic-containing drug that kills adult heartworms) to treat your pet. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is administered by an injection into the back muscles of the dog to kill the parasites.

Topical FDA approved solutions are also available to treat heartworm disease. These solutions can help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied directly to the animal's skin.

Heartworm Prevention

Keeping your dog on preventative medication is the best way to prevent heartworm disease from impacting your dog's health. Even if your pooch is already on preventive heartworm medication, it is recommended that dogs be tested for heartworms annually.

Preventing heartworm is safer, simpler, and far more economical than treating the advanced disease. Additionally, several heartworm preventive medications can offer protection against other parasites like hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.

Contact us if you need more information about heartworm disease in dogs, or to book a heartworm test for your pup. Our Sharpsburg vets can complete an examination for your dog.