Heartworm Disease In Pets - Symptoms, Prevention, & More!

April 7, 2023
Amber LaRock - LVT & Vetted Vet Pro

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, so we’re here to offer you the education you need to keep your little one safe from this fatal blood parasite! Though heartworm disease impacts over 100,000 dogs each year, many pet parents are still unaware of this common condition.

Heartworm disease can put significant stress on your pet’s heart and lungs, and it can even be fatal if it is not treated appropriately. This is why it is so important to be aware of the threat of heartworm disease, and how to protect your pet with heartworm prevention moving forward!

Vetted want the very best for your beloved pet, so we are here to answer any questions you may have about this mosquito-borne illness. Let’s dive into our detailed guide now!

Before we get started, we suggest downloading the Vetted app so you can have access to our pet parent guidance center! This is our chat platform that allows you to speak with veterinary professionals 24/7, so you can reach out to us if you have any additional questions about this topic!

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are a tiny parasitic worm that can be transmitted from infected mosquitoes to dogs, and in rare cases cats. Heartworms make their way into a dog’s bloodstream through the infected mosquito’s bite, and since dogs are an ideal host for these parasites, they will soon begin to mature and multiply. 

Though they may be microscopic at first, these critters will eventually multiply and grow within the dog’s bloodstream, ultimately putting a major strain on the heart and lungs. Due to the devastating impact the heartworms have on a dog’s cardiovascular system, many dogs lose their life to this condition.

As we mentioned above, heartworm disease is very rare in cats. Cats are not an ideal host for the heartworm, so the worms do not thrive as well in a cat’s body. In addition to this, most pet cats live indoors and do not have as much exposure to infected mosquitos. 

Are Heartworms In Dogs A Big Deal?

As we mentioned above, heartworms can have a devastating impact on your dog’s health. In the early stages of the condition, you may notice a few abnormal symptoms in your little one. Some of the common symptoms of heartworms in dogs include a persistent cough, tiring out easily with exercise, avoiding exercise, a decreased appetite, and weight loss. Though these symptoms may not seem life altering at first, they will typically worsen over time. 

If your dog’s heartworms are able to mature to their adult size and multiply, they could soon cause a blockage of blood flow within the heart. This situation is life threatening, and many dogs do not survive this complication. As you can see, not only can the symptoms of this disease impact your pup’s quality of life, but they can even be fatal. 

How Do Heartworm Preventatives Work?

Thankfully for the beloved dogs in our family, heartworm preventatives are highly effective in preventing heartworm disease in dogs. These preventative options come in tiny and easy to consume pills or treats that you give your dog each month, and they often contain ingredients such as ivermectin or milbemycin.

While many believe that heartworm preventatives repel mosquitos in the way that flea and tick preventatives repel fleas and ticks, this is actually not the case at all. Heartworm preventatives for dogs work by releasing ingredients that treat any immature heartworms that are already in the dog’s body, which ultimately kills the heartworms before they have a chance to mature. 

As long as you give your dog their heartworm prevention on a consistent and monthly basis, the ingredients within the pill will kill any heartworms the dog was infected with within the last month or so. This is also why it is so important to give your pet their heartworm medicine at the same time each month, as this will offer them the best protection moving forward!

Heartworm Preventatives For Dogs

Now that you understand how heartworm prevention protects your dog against heartworms, it’s time to list a few of our favorite heartworm preventatives on the market. Just keep in mind that we always suggest speaking with your vet before offering your pet any heartworm prevention, as they may have specific guidance based on your pet’s health needs. 

Some of our favorite heartworm preventatives for dogs include:

  • Heartgard Plus
  • Interceptor Plus
  • Trifexis
  • Advantage Multi

Most vet offices will carry the heartworm preventive options they trust most, so just ask your vet which medication is best for your little one!

Final Thoughts On Heartworms In Dogs

Heartworms may pose a major threat to a dog’s health, but they can be easily prevented with the use of monthly heartworm medication! As long as you have an understanding of this blood parasite and a trusted heartworm preventive on your side, then your pet has the tools needed to keep them safe!

Vetted wants the very best for your little one, so we are always here if you have any additional questions about your pet’s health. Just download the Vetted app here, and you can gain access to our 24/7 pet parent guidance center with our skilled Vet Pros. Day or night, we are always here to help you and your treasured pet.