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Keep the Worms out of Your Pet’s Heart!

When you take your dog to the vet, you will get the standard question about heartworm prevention, but do you know what heartworms are? The team at Northside Veterinary Hospital is here to break down the most common questions (and misconceptions) about heartworm prevention and your furry friends. 

What are Heartworms? 

Heartworm is a potentially deadly parasite that is transmitted only by mosquitos. Larval heartworms- called microfilaria- circulate the bloodstream of infected animals.

Who can get Heartworms? 

Dogs are the natural host for heartworms. Heartworms that live inside your dog can mature into adults and produce offspring. Some dogs have been found to have several hundred worms in their heart. Cats can also contract heartworms, but they are not the natural host. 

How is Heartworm Transmitted? 

Heartworms are passed from pet to pet by mosquitos. Adult female heartworms living in an infected animal produce baby worms- called microfilaria- which circulate in the pet’s bloodstream. When a mosquito bites the infected animal, they pick up the microfilaria and deposit them into the next animal they bite. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately six months for the larvae to develop into sexually mature adult heartworms.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Heartworms? 

When your pet is first infected, many dogs show little to no symptoms. The longer your dog is infected, the more symptoms will likely develop. Signs of heartworm disease may include: 

  • Mild, persistent cough

  • Reluctance to exercise

  • Fatigue 

  • Decreased appetite

  • Weight loss

As the disease progresses, dogs may develop heart failure or the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart leading to cardiovascular collapse.

Is Heartworm Disease Treatable? 

Northside Veterinary Hospital offers heartworm treatment to infected dogs with heartworm disease. First, start your pet on antibiotics for 30 days and then proceed with treatment. The heartworm treatment is done via intramuscular injection in the lumbar muscles. Injections are done 2-3 times depending on disease progression, and the injection site is often very sore for dogs after the treatment. 

2022 Heartworm Disease Map
2022 Heartworm Disease Map

How Can I Prevent Heartworm Disease?

The good news is that heartworm disease is 100% preventable! It is vital to keep your pet up to date on monthly heartworm preventative, and it is best if they are on preventative year-round. With Michigan’s warmer winters, mosquitos are out and about for longer periods of time. Treating heartworm disease is expensive and painful for the animal, and based on your pet’s worm load, there is a chance that it will be unsuccessful or potentially fatal. Prevention of heartworms is the most inexpensive and painless route!

Northside Veterinary Hospital offers five different types of heartworm prevention. They include: 

  • Interceptor Plus- Chewable Heartworm and Intestinal Worm Prevention (Lasts 1 Month)

  • Heartgard- Chewable Heartworm and Intestinal Worm Prevention (Lasts 1 Month)

  • Sentinel- Chewable Heartworm, Flea, and Intestinal Worm Prevention (Lasts 1 Month)

  • Simparica Trio- Chewable Heartworm, Flea, Tick, and Intestinal Worm Prevention (Lasts 1 Month)

  • ProHeart 12- Heartworm Injection (Lasts 12 Months)

We also provide heartworm screenings for dogs over seven months of age. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment! 



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