• Aimee Thornton

April is Heartworm Awareness Month


General Information

Heartworm disease is a serious and often fatal disease in pets. It is caused by worms that grow up to a foot long that live in your dog's heart, lungs, and blood vessels. All unprotected dogs are at risk for getting heartworms which are spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes carrying the heartworm larvae Heartworms have been diagnosed in all 50 states, especially in endemic regions, such as the southeast, such as Texas. An indoor lifestyle does NOT protect a pet against heartworm infection because mosquitoes carrying heartworm infection can easily come indoors. Heartworm prevention is essential for the health and longevity of pets. Heartworm infections can permanently damage a dog's heart, lungs and arteries; and can lead to chronic respiratory disease and even sudden death.


Prevention is easy; it's safe, simple and effective. It is available in multiple forms and should be started as early as 8 - 10 weeks of age. Year round protection is recommended. Treatment is hard; heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, heartworm prevention for dogs is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible. It takes approximately 6 months for heartworm larvae to mature into adult heartworms living in the heart. Once matured, heartworms can live 5-7 years in a dog's heart.


Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms and worms often do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have 1-3 worms and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms but even immature worms cause damage. The medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

Signs/Symptoms

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, coughing and exercise intolerance starts due to moderate lung damage from the heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease may include:

A mild persistent cough

Reluctance to exercise & Fatigue after moderate activity

Decreased appetite with weight loss & muscle wasting (cachexia)

Fainting episodes (syncope)

Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)

Spitting up of blood derived from the lungs due to pulmonary or bronchial hemorrhage (hemoptysis) occasionally occurs and indicates severe blood clots in the lungs.

Pale gums and mucous membranes, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), weak pulses, presence of hemoglobin in the blood (hemoglobinemia), and presence of hemoglobin in the urine (hemoglobinuria) are indications of SERIOUS complications of heartworm disease (caval syndrome), and death is likely at this stage.


Heartworm disease is a serious and fatal disease, don't let your pet be a statistic of heartworm disease, and ensure your pet is on prevention. Browse our online pharmacy for a list of safe and effective heartworm preventatives for your pet.

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