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Dog Heartworm - How To Detect and Manage Heartworm Disease In Your Dog

How would my dog catch heartworms?

Mosquito bites spread heartworms. A mosquito must carry the heartworm parasite to spread that to your dog.

Dr. Jennifer Bochnowski
Lowell Animal Hospital

Can heartworm be prevented?

It can be easily prevented with heartworm preventatives. Typically, those are going to be monthly chewable tablets, but there is an injectable preventative and topical products as well. We do recommend that whichever one you choose, you do that year-round, even in the winter.

What are the signs in my dog that would indicate that they may have heartworm?

Early-stage heartworm disease often goes undetected, and you won't see signs, which is part of the reason we really recommend testing year-round when they come in for their yearly vaccines. But as the disease progresses, you can see a persistent cough and weight loss, and you might see fatigue after exercise. It can progress from there.

What are some of the middle to late-stage symptoms of heartworm?

That cough, weight loss, and fatigue are going to get worse, but ultimately, you can see some signs associated with heart failure and lung disease. Eventually, a dog can die from heartworm disease.

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

Once we've found that a dog is heartworm positive, we will recommend a treatment protocol that the American Heartworm Society puts forth. It's a prolonged process, but they start with oral medications, steroids, and an antibiotic. They go on heartworm prevention, and then there's a series of injections that they get over several months to treat heartworm disease.

How soon should I bring my dog in the see my veterinarian for heartworm prevention?

You really want to get your puppy started on a heartworm preventative as early as eight weeks. Each heartworm preventative has its own minimum age requirements, which could be as early as eight to 12 weeks for most dogs.

How does a veterinarian diagnose if my dog has heartworm?

Heartworm disease is detected easily on a snap test. We just need a few drops of blood from your dog, and we will run a test in-house. A color change will tell us if it's positive or negative.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of heartworm so important?

The longer the disease is present, the worse signs could be for your pet. We're looking at lung and heart disease, potentially other organs involved, and the sooner we can get things under control and treated, the better it will be for your pet in the long run.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (219) 247-0555, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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