Protecting your pet from heartworm disease

How Can I Protect My Pet From Heartworm Disease?

If you’ve owned a pet and taken it to the veterinarian before, you’ll have heard about heartworm disease prevention. Heartworm Disease is a huge threat to the health of your pet and should be taken seriously. Even if your pet stays indoors most of the time, they should still take a heartworm preventative regularly. It only takes a few seconds for your pet to get infected.

Today we’re going to discuss:

  • What is heartworm disease?
  • How does my pet get infected with heartworm disease?
  • What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?
  • How is heartworm disease treated in pets?
  • Can cats get heartworm disease?
  • How can I prevent heartworm disease in my pet?

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by parasitic worms (Dirofilaria immitis). The worms start out as undetectable larvae which then mature into adult worms. The adult worms can find their way into your pet’s organs, such as the liver and heart, and into their blood vessels where they can reproduce. These worms have been known to live 5-7 years, and grow to be 12 inches long. A dog can have as many as 250 worms in their system. 

Left untreated, heartworms can do irreparable damage to a pet’s body. Organs can be left riddled with holes from the worms, and ultimately, your pet’s system could start to shut down if they suffer with heartworm disease for a long time. It’s a scary disease, but the good news is that with the right knowledge, it’s easily prevented. 

How does my pet get infected with heartworm disease?

According to the FDA, adult female heartworms reproduce and release microfilarie into an infected animal’s bloodstream. If a mosquito bites and sucks the blood of an infected animal, they can carry the microfilariae, which mature into infective larvae, until they bite a different animal. The larvae enter the new animal through their mosquito bite.

It takes infective larvae up to 7 months to mature in adult worms. When an adult worm has reproduced, it’s the completion of their life cycle.

It’s incredibly important to get your pet checked for heartworms on a regular basis. At PetWellClinic, our Total and Complete Dog Wellness Packages both include a heartworm test. Early detection of heartworms gives your pet the best chance of recovery.

The region you live in can also help predict your pet’s risk of heartworms. Warmer climates in North America have higher cases, but it’s possible for your pet to get infected anywhere in the country.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

The most common symptoms of heartworm disease unfortunately are consistent with other health issues that can affect your pet. If your pet exhibits any or all of the symptoms below (ranging from mild to severe), you should take them to your nearest emergency vet clinic:

  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Protruding ribs from weight loss

Some of the more severe symptoms include abnormal sounds coming from the lungs, a heart murmur, and an enlarged liver, all of which can be detected by a veterinarian.

If your pet shows symptoms of heartworm disease, get them tested immediately!
If your pet exhibits any symptoms of heartworm disease, you should get them tested right away.

How is heartworm disease treated in pets?

Heartworms are dangerous and can be terrifying for your pet and for you. But if caught early in dogs, it’s a treatable disease. 

Before you ever start treatment for heartworm disease in your dog, you have to restrict their physical activity. Higher levels of physical activity can cause heartworms to do more damage at a faster rate. You’ll need to restrict your dog to slow walks on a leash, and do everything you can to keep them from running or roughhousing with other pets. 

There are two main treatments used by veterinarians to treat heartworm disease. Both options are hard on your dog, and can cost quite a bit, but have been proven to be affective treatments.

Melarsomine dihydrochloride

This is a drug approved by the FDA to treat heartworms in dogs. It’s injected into a dog’s back muscles. These injections can treat stabilized class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease, but it’s not just a one-time treatment. If your veterinarian recommends melarsomine dihydrochloride it will require a series of visits and injections.

Advantage Multi for Dogs

Advantage Multi for Dogs is a topical option that’s approved by the FDA to kill microfilariae in a dog’s bloodstream. It’s applied to the dog’s skin. This can be purchased without going to the veterinarian, but it’s still important to discuss this option with your veterinarian before purchasing and applying to your dog.

Keep in mind that any treatment for heartworm disease involves multiple trips to the veterinarian, a series of injections or applications, and constantly monitoring your dog while they’re undergoing treatment. In order for the treatments to kill the heartworms they contain ingredients that could be toxic to your dog if not watched and monitored while undergoing treatment.

The process of treatment for heartworms is stressful, but could save your dog’s life. Just remember to follow all of your vet’s instructions and give your dog the love and patience they need while undergoing treatment.

Cats can't be treated for heartworms
Cats can get heartworm disease, but can’t handle the intense treatments like dogs.

Can cats get heartworm disease?

While it’s more common for dogs to be infected with heartworms, it is possible for cats to get infected, too. Since cats are an atypical host for heartworms, it’s not likely that the larvae will ever mature into adult worms.

According to the American Heartworm Society:

While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

The American Heartworm Society

Since cats can’t undergo treatment for heartworm disease, it’s very important that you never skip a dose of their heartworm prevention.

How can I prevent heartworm disease in my pet?

Now that you know what heartworm disease is, how it’s spread, common symptoms, and how it’s treated, you need to know how to prevent your pet from getting it. The most effective way to prevent heartworm disease is through regularly scheduled doses of a heartworm preventative.

Heartworm preventative has to be purchased through a veterinarian’s office. At PetWellClinic we carry heartworm prevention for both dogs and cats! Different doses are needed depending on the weight of your pet, but a simple visit to your local PetWellClinic can solve which dose and brand would be best for your pet.

Check out our prevention options for heartworm disease!
Don’t forget to get your dog tested annually for heartworm disease!

What heartworm prevention brands do we carry?

Heartgard Plus

A once-monthly heartworm preventative, chewable. It also treats roundworms and hookworms in dogs.

Interceptor Plus

A once-monthly heartworm preventative chewable tablet. It’s also a roundworm, hookworm and whipworm treatment, and now treats tapeworms too! This is Dr. Sam Meisler’s personal favorite for dogs and cats!


A once-monthly heartworm and flea topical preventative. It also manages tick prevention in dogs, and ear mite, roundworm, and hookworm treatment in cats.

Tri-Heart Plus (Generic Heartgard)

A once-monthly heartworm preventative chewable. Also a roundworm and hookworm treatment for dogs.


A once monthly heartworm and flea preventative flavored pill, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm treatment for dogs.

Ready to get your pet started on heartworm preventionVisit your PetWellClinic location today to get your dog tested for heartworms and discuss the best heartworm preventative for your pet. No appointment necessary!

Preventative medicine is important to enjoying a long and healthy life with your pet!
Taking the right precautions when your pet is healthy can save them from going through the nightmare of heartworm disease!

Enjoy a long and healthy life with your pet

Preventative medicine is a crucial part of enjoying a full life with your dog or cat. At PetWellClinic we offer all of the standard preventative care for your pets in our exams. Whether your pet needs an updated rabies vaccination, a heartworm test, or antibiotics for a urinary tract infection, we’re your one stop shop for basic veterinary care.

We operate with kindness in mind for both you and your pet. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends so we can be there when you need us, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind.

PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with your convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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