The Dangers Of Heartworm In Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

A couple of years back, your pet dog wasn’t vulnerable to heartworm disease as they are now! The American Heartworm Society states that heartworm cases in dogs are being reported in most U. S states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Canine heartworms are medically termed “Dirofilaria immitis” and can cause arterial damage, fluid accumulation, and blood flow blockages. They can affect a dog’s health for several months and years. Your pet might not show any physical symptoms at first.

Therefore, preventing heartworm infections is crucial so that your pup doesn’t suffer severe health consequences.

How Prevalent Are Heartworms?

It was back in 1856 that the first incident of canine heartworm was reported in the United States. Stanford University claims it to be somewhere in the Southeast. At one point, heartworm infections were frequent in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic states.

When the initial cases started occurring, the American Heartworm Society declared a global rise in heartworm infection. Cassan Pulaski, DVM, MPH, in the report, states that while the country’s southern regions were primarily associated with heartworm-related ailments, it doesn’t save pets in the other parts of the country.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) declared that an increased number of canine heartworm infections are constantly being reported. You must keep this in mind, more so when your dog travels.

Regions with increased populations of stray and wild animals also pose a greater risk. Dogs that remain inside, for the most part, aren’t completely secure either.

Even when pets get shipped from one place to the other, it increases the risk of heartworm infections. It’s mostly due to shelter dogs that come from disaster relief efforts and heartworm-endemic states.

The Symptoms of Heartworm Infections in Dogs

Not every dog with a heartworm infection will have visible symptoms. A vet can ask for blood tests, and that can be the only way to diagnose the disease. But a few warning signs that dog owners need to know include:

  •  Persistent and mild cough

Heartworm disease in dogs brings in a dry and persistent cough. When other signs are absent, this could raise caution and call for immediate medical attention.

  • Lethargy

Reluctance to exercise and lethargy in dogs is a common sign of heartworm disease. In some, it could be at an advanced stage as well. When your pet loses all interest in going for walks or gets fatigued after every activity, you shouldn’t take this lightly at all.

  • Weight Loss

Heartworm infection can suppress your dog’s appetite and make them lose weight.

  • A Swollen Belly

As heartworm disease progresses, the risk of heart failure increases. Dog owners might notice their pet’s belly might become swollen due to fluid retention.

  • Problem With Breathing

In several advanced heartworm disease cases, dogs usually have extreme respiratory distress, such as quick breathing, along with coughing.

How to Treat Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

Often vets recommend Melarsomine dihydrochloride, which is an FDA-approved drug that destroys adult heartworms in dogs. The medicine gets injected into the back muscles of the dogs. Other drugs, including moxidectin and imidacloprid, are FDA-approved for removing microfilariae in the dog’s bloodstream.

Even though prevention is the ideal way to treat heartworm in dogs, once infected, medicines are essential. There are medicines like Heartgard Plus that are effective in destroying heartworms and controlling hookworms and roundworms within 30 days. Heartgard Plus for dogs up to 25 lbs is a good medication for treating heartworm disease.

According to PetRx, an online pet supplies store, pet owners should get their dogs completely checked before giving them any medication. Some dogs might face a few symptoms, such as diarrhea, depression, mydriasis, vomiting, ataxia, hypersalivation, convulsions, and staggering. Getting in touch with the vet is necessary in each of the cases so that the dog’s health doesn’t get aggravated.

Once the diagnosis is positive for heartworm infection, a vet might also prescribe steroids and antibiotics.

Antibiotics help to destroy the bacteria from within. It can weaken the worm and make it susceptible to the treatment medications. Also, steroids can help bring down the chances of allergic reactions from the dying worms.

Restrictions In Exercise

One of the initial treatment modalities is exercise reduction. It is necessary so that your dog’s blood pressure and heart rate don’t fluctuate and remain stable. It also prevents the dead worms from leading to an allergic reaction.

Vets usually ask dog owners to follow this restriction for about a year till such time there is visible success and betterment. It’s an essential lifestyle change. Otherwise, heartworms can lead to severe cardiopulmonary complications.


Heartworm disease in dogs has been shrouded by several myths. One such myth is that dogs prone to a warmer climate are more vulnerable. The truth is the ailment is caused by mosquito bites, and your dog can be infected anywhere.

If you think your dog is showing symptoms of heartworm disease, getting a medical diagnosis is essential. Any case that gets untreated will cause the dog to die within a few years.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button