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What you need to know about Heartworms in dogs

Posted on: Dec 31 2020

Heartworm is a parasite transferred to your pet by a mosquito bite, attacking the heart and lungs of your dog. It can be a deadly disease and one that is best prevented. In this blog we discuss heartworms in dogs, signs to watch for and how to treat the disease if your pet becomes infected.

heartworm in dogs, lab laying on ground

How heartworms infect your dog

A simple mosquito bite can inject the heartworm larva into your dog’s bloodstream. Once the larva matures it works its way through the body and into the heart and lungs of your pet over a six month period.

These adult worms breed and continue the cycle once again in your dog’s bloodstream. So how do you know if your dog is infected?

The signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of heartworms in dogs can be identified by these changes;

  • A persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bulging ribs

However, once your dog has reached a late-stage of heartworm disease your vet may discover the following issues during an assessment;

  • Abnormal sounds in your pet’s lungs
  • An enlarged liver
  • A heart murmur.

Can heartworms be treated?

Prevention, like most things, is the best medicine. However, if your dog does become ill, treatment may consist of the following steps taken over several months.

  • Restricting your dog’s exercise. The treatment will start with medication to reduce the chances of a bad reaction to the dying heartworms and restricted exercise will help reduce issues
  • Your dog will be given a series of three injections to kill adult heartworms and will be closely monitored for side effects after each injection
  • You’ll be advised to restrict your dogs exercise for another six to eight weeks after the injections.

Your dog will be tested for heartworms every few months after the treatment to ensure that it has shed all the heartworms from its system.

Dogs with severe heartworm disease may require further treatment such as antibiotics, pain relief medications, or special diets, to name a few.

heartworms in dogs, puppy in grass

How to prevent it

Prevention of heartworm is via monthly tablet or spot-on medications which can also include treatment for fleas, intestinal worms and other parasites. You may prefer to give your dog a yearly injection, which is administered by your vet. Both are equally effective.

If your dog has not had heartworm treatment in over 6 months, ensure you seek advice from your vet before you start treatment.

Karingal Veterinary Hospital – Heartworms in Dogs

If your dog has not be treated for heartworm and they show signs, seek expert advice as soon as you can. Feel free to contact the friendly staff at Karingal Veterinary Hospital to make an appointment or book online today.

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328 Cranbourne Road, Frankston, VIC, 3199

P: (03) 9789 3444

The Karingal Veterinary Hospital is open 7 days a week.

Our hours are

- 8am-8pm Monday-Friday,
- 9am-5pm Saturday,
- Temporarily closed on Sundays Due To Covid,

- We will remain closed from the 25th Dec 2020 - 28th Dec 2020 & on 1st Jan 2021

* We are closed on public holidays.