Heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states, and although not in epidemic proportions as in the South of the country, it is increasingly something that pet owners should be aware of – even in Las Vegas! Craig Road Animal Hospital’s own Dr. Beyers goes over the symptoms, preventatives, and cures for this potentially fatal disease. 

Dr. Beyers

By Seth Beyers, DVM

Heartworm disease may not be as well known in the Las Vegas area as some other parts of the country, but the threat of heartworm disease is out there!

This dangerous disease occurs when your pet is bitten by a mosquito.

Infected mosquitoes carry microscopic heartworm larvae which is deposited onto your pet and works its way into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these worms migrate to the heart where they can grow up to 12 inches long! The heart may become so infected with worms that your pet may develop heart failure and/or lung disease. Heartworms may cause your dog to show symptoms such as a persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, and weight loss. When a large number of heartworms develop, it can lead to an abrupt obstruction of blood flow through the heart and lungs.

It is a very simple to test for heartworm disease. A small amount of blood is sent to the laboratory, and the results are back within days.

This test cannot consistently detect infection until heartworms are at least 7 months old. This is why it is important to test your pets every 6-12 months. Notify your veterinarian if there is any lapse in monthly treatment so appropriate testing can be scheduled.

Prevention of this heartworm disease is easy. A pill or chew ball medication is given every 30 days year-round. These medications are highly effective, safe, relatively inexpensive, and often will provide treatment of additional parasites. Prevention is always safer and more affordable than treating dogs with heartworm infection. Treating heartworm disease can be very costly and time consuming. There is risk of sudden death during treatment due to dislodgment of dead heartworms that may cause an embolism.

So at your next visit to Craig Road Animal Hospital be sure to discuss the individual risk factors, clinical signs, preventative changes, and testing limitations of heartworms disease with your veterinarian.