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Your Dog and Heartworms

May 1, 2021

Did you knowthat heartworms are one of the most dangerous parasites dogs can get? We know, heartworms aren’t a very pleasant topic. However, it is important for people with canine companions to understand what they are and what they do. Here, a Roanoke, VA vet offers some insight on heartworms, and how they affect Fido.


The first thing you need to know about heartworms is the fact that they are transmitted by mosquitoes. About 25 types of mosquitos have volunteered for this task. Because mosquitos can be almost anywhere, Fido can get heartworms at any place or any time. That said, places that are frequented by both dogs and mosquitoes—such as dog parks and trails—are the most dangerous spots. For tips on keeping your dog safe in these environments, check out our article on Dog Park Safety Tips.

Life Cycle

Heartworms are in larval form when they first infect dogs. However, they will mature in about 6 months, at which point they start reproducing. As the name suggests, heartworms inhabit dogs’ hearts, as well as their lungs and arteries. Needless to say, heartworm infestations are extremely dangerous.


Most of the time, coughing and shortness of breath are the first signs of an infestation. As the situation worsens, other signs will appear. These include lethargy, withdrawal, fatigue, weight loss, and reluctance to play or exercise. Left untreated, infestations can lead to seizure, coma, heart attacks, and, unfortunately, death.


The best way to protect your canine companion is keep up with his heartworm prevention. This is much easier—not to mention much cheaper—than trying to treat a live infestation. Even a small lapse can give heartworm infestations a chance to take root. If Fido isn’t on heartworm preventative now, he’ll need to be tested before starting, as the products that prevent infestations don’t kill live worms. For comprehensive care including heartworm prevention and other essential vaccinations, visit our Veterinary Wellness & Pet Vaccinations page. Ask your vet for more information.


Keep in mind that while there are heartworm treatments available, they can be costly. They can also be pretty rough on poor Fido, who may need his movements restricted. (If this doesn’t sound difficult, remember that your furry buddy won’t understand why he’s grounded. It isn’t always easy to face down that sad stare dogs get when they’re kennelled or restricted for long periods.) In some cases, surgery may be needed. This is one matter where an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure!

As your local Roanoke, VA animal clinic, we are here to help. Contact us anytime.

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