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Published: Jan 30, 2012

Heartworm disease is a very serious health issue for dogs and it is important for pet owners to know the signs of heartworm disease and how to prevent this potentially fatal disease.

Heartworm disease is most commonly passed through mosquitos, and it can take anywhere from a few months to years for evidence of the illness to become clear, according to the American Heartworm Society. VCA Animal Hospitals reports that adult heartworms can live in the heart and large blood vessels of dogs for as long as five years. Unfortunately, clinical signs of heartworm disease—such as coughing, fatigue, reduced appetite and weight loss—may not be present until the disease is very advanced.

A veterinarian can easily determine if your canine companion has heartworms by performing a simple blood test.  If this test is positive, your veterinarian is likely to recommend full bloodwork, chest radiographs (x-rays) and possibly an electrocardiogram or even a heart ultrasound to determine how advanced your dog’s heartworm disease is.

If your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm disease, treatment depends on the severity of the condition.  Most dogs require oral medications and a series of dog shots that kill the worms. VCA indicates that after injectable drugs are administered to kill the worms, dogs must be rested and should not engage in any physical activity for at least several weeks or fatal reactions can occur.

Prevention is the very best approach to heartworm disease.  Heartworm disease in dogs is completely preventable with routinely administered heartworm preventatives.  Speak to your veterinarian about getting your dog tested and started on preventatives today.