Heartworm – the Basics

Published on April 18th, 2016

dog-mosquitoHeartworm is serious business. It’s a disease that can kill a dog, but it’s also one that’s entirely preventable. It’s also a lot more prevalent than most people think, even way up north here in Chicago. In fact, the average vet clinic in our area reports 6 to 25 cases a year.

Dogs catch heartworms from mosquitos. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, microscopic heartworms are injected under the skin. From here, they travel to the heart where they live up to 7 years and grow up to 30 centimeters, all the while causing damage to both the heart and pulmonary vessels. If untreated, this often leads to death. The adult heartworms also give birth to new larvae in the bloodstream. When a mosquito comes along and bites the dog, it picks these up and within 2 weeks is able to infect another dog.

The good news is that all of this can be avoided. Heartworm preventative is simple, safe and cheap. This is why veterinarians focus on prevention. ProHeart is the simplest form of protection – it is a shot given here at the office once every 6 months. Also fairly easy are the once a month pills like Sentinel and once a month topicals like Revolution. Heartworm testing is required once a year to ensure compliance.


On the other hand, treating an infected dog is complicated, dangerous and expensive. It consists of a series of injections that can lead to dangerous blood clots in the lungs, requires nearly 2 months of strict cage rest and costs hundreds of dollars. Our goal is to avoid this in every single dog.

So if your dog is not currently on a heartworm preventative, call to schedule a heartworm test today so we can get started.

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