Heartworm in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is considered a fatal disease for pets such as dogs and cats.

In 1856 canine heartworm was first discovered on the southeast coast of the United States. The first heartworm disease infection in cats was detected in the 1920s. Gradually the heartworm disease spread to the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world.

Heartworm disease in dogs is caused by worms, which travel through the blood vessels of infected pets to the lungs and heart. It then causes severe lung disease, heart failure, and much damage to other body organs by damaging the lung tissues. Heartworm disease, if not treated properly, can cause severe complications and eventually death. It is not a contagious disease. But it spreads from dog to dog through mosquitoes.

According to Care4dogs, more than one million pets in the United States have heartworm disease. The American Heartworm Society is helping with heartworm education and research to prevent this pet’s heartworm disease.

How Does a Dog Get Heartworm?

There are some species of mosquitoes that carry the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis. One bite from an infected mosquito is enough for your dog to get heartworm infected. All these mosquito bites spread the worms to the animal’s body. This worm can spread very fast from the inside. In a very short time, this worm grew to become hundreds of worms. For this reason, heartworm in dogs is extremely dangerous. Heartworm disease causes permanent extensive damage to the dog’s heart, lungs and arteries and heartworm is a parasite that can affect the dog’s health and quality of life.

Good to know that, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats

Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

There are some symptoms of heartworm in dogs through which you can easily figure out.

The main symptoms are:

  1. Persistent cough, dry cough
  2. Inactivity or lethargy
  3. Weight loss or anorexia
  4. Rapid or difficult breathing
  5. Bulging Chest
  6. Allergic reaction

Persistent Cough, Dry Cough

Parasitic worms of heartworm first attack the lungs. It then begins to breed in the encompassing veins. A mild dry cough is caused by an attack on the lungs, but regular coughing increases. Even light exercise can make the cough worse and even fade.

Inactivity or Lethargy

If your favorite dog continues to lose enthusiasm, mischief day by day and is reluctant to play, hang out, or skip the physical activity, it might be a sign of heartworm disease. This is because your dog becomes so weak with a heartworm infection that he is reluctant to do even his favorite and small actions.

Weight Loss or Anorexia

When the heartworm disease starts to spread, it makes the body tired and weak. Then simple and little tasks even show reluctance to eat. Shows boredom in food loses weight and feels endless fatigue.

Rapid or Difficult Breathing

When heartworms invade and reproduce in the lungs and surrounding veins, it is difficult to oxygenate the blood in the lungs. This results in shortness of breath.

Bulging Chest

An adult heartworm infection can cause your favorite dog’s ribs to swell. All of those symptoms can cause your dog to lose weight and cause anorexia due to heart disease. If the heart disease in your dog’s heart and lungs is fully increased, the heartworm disease symptoms will be very visible.

Allergic Reaction

Although allergies are more common in cats, dogs can also have allergic reactions or asthma symptoms due to heartworm reactions.

Other heartworm symptoms are possible, too:

  1. Secondary pneumonia
  2. Seizures
  3. Lameness
  4. Increased blood pressure
  5. Nosebleeds
  6. Blindness etc.

Heartworm Treatment For Dogs

If the above symptoms are seen in your dog, then your dog has heartworm disease and needs to be treated immediately. If the infected dog isn’t treated at the proper time, the probabilities of death are highest. But the hope is that the majority of infected dogs can be successfully treated.

The protocol for the treatment of heartworms depends on the condition of the disease. This treatment may have to be continued for several months. To keep our dog away from heartworms our main task is to check the health of the dog regularly.

If the dog’s condition becomes particularly severe, appropriate stabilization therapy treatment is required. When heartworm disease is diagnosed, it’s seen that many dogs are at the ultimate stage of the disease. This means that the heartworms have caused considerable damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and liver. During this condition, dogs cannot survive for more than a few weeks or months. Heartworm disease is so terrible that it can cause death very soon. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated.

Earlier, medicines used for the treatment of heartworm disease contained high levels of arsenic and toxic substances. Which was likely to cause side effects. Medical science has improved. A new drug is currently available that is being used to treat dog heartworm disease with 95% success and has very few side effects.

Heartworm medicine for dogs

A melarsomine injection drug of the brand Immiticide® is given to kill adult heartworms. Adult worms of the heart and adjacent vessels are killed by melarsomine injection. This vaccine will then be given in two more steps in the form of a series. The veterinarian will go to the next step considering the physical condition of your dog. Usually, the second injection of melarsomine is given after the next 30 days of rest and close observation. The third injection was given 24 hours later.

Within a couple of days of being vaccinated adult worms die and start to rot. Then they break into small pieces and go to the lungs. There they stay in the blood vessels. Is finally regenerated by the body. It lasts from a few weeks to months. This is a dangerous time because most treatment complications occur during this time. So this time six to eight weeks your dog must stay calm, far away from the practice.

A cough could also be noticeable at this time. Inform your veterinarian if the cough is severe. If significant reactions are noticeable in the weeks following initial treatment, immediate treatment is required. Although these symptoms are less common. Inform your veterinarian if your dog shows loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe cough, hemorrhage, fever, etc. Anti-inflammatory, antibiotics and care are effective at this time.

After killing adult heartworms, microfilariae (heartworm larvae) must be destroyed. For that, you have to apply different drugs. It is usually given to the hospital. Your dog needs to be hospitalized for observation. Then start preventing heartworm at home according to the instructions given by the doctor.

Note that melarsomine injection also has some side effects. Everything depends on your veterinarian. He will be treated as he prescribes.

Here are some of the best heartworm medicine for dogs recommended by veterinarians:

  1. Trifexis.
  2. Sentinel.
  3. Sentinel Spectrum.
  4. Advantage Multi.
  5. Iverhart Plus.
  6. Simparica Trio.
  7. Interceptor Plus.
  8. Heartgard.
  9. Heartgard Plus.
  10. Tri-Heart Plus.

Heartworm treatment cost for dogs:

The veterinarian may do some tests for heartworm treatment and checkups. All those heartworm treatment costs are given approximately:

  • The Positive Heartworm Test costs approximately $30 to $80.
  • The confirmatory test costs approximately $20 to $40.
  • The chest x-rays cost approximately $120 to $200.
  • An echocardiogram costs approximately $500 to $950.
  • The doxycycline and steroid costs respectively approximately ($35 to $150) and ($15 to $40).
  • Heartworm tablets cost approximately $5 to $20.

Heartworm prevention for dogs

Preventing heartworm disease is significant and a matter of concern for each pet dog owner. Since this can be a cause of death for dogs, everyone should be careful. Heartworm disease in dog’s bodies can be easily controlled.

There are several ways you can prevent this disease.

1.Regular testing: The first step in preventing heartworm is regular testing. One of the best heartworm prevention for dogs is ‘Regular testing’. Because it is important for you to make sure that your dog is free of heartworm disease before taking measures to prevent heartworm. Otherwise, your dog may die even after taking preventive measures.

If your dog has previously had 3 injections for heartworm. Then, your dog will need 2 more tests.

1. Test 3 to 5 months after the third melarsomine injection of microfilariae (juvenile heartworms).

2. Test for adult heartworms and microfilariae 6 months after the third melarsomine injection.

Otherwise, it should be tested at least once a year or you should work on the recommendation of a veterinarian. Heartworm disease is very easy to test. Blood samples are tested. This will show the annual physical condition of your dog.

2.Drugs: Flea and ticks on dogs can be prevented in several ways. These include chewable pills, topical “spot on” medications and injections that are given every 6 to 12 months. Medications to prevent heartworm can be taken only on the recommendation of a veterinarian. Since the veterinarian knows what kind of parasite is in which area and he will treat it accordingly. So they need to be consulted.

Heartworm awareness

According to the American Heartworm Society, more than 1 million dogs in the United States have heartworm disease. Each year 0.25 million dogs out of 50 million are in danger of being infected with heartworm. That means 1 dog out of each 200 dogs becoming infected with this heartworm disease.

Since the main cause of this disease is mosquito bites carrying larvae. So we need to protect our dogs from mosquito bites. we should take some steps to prevent the mosquitos. Mosquito infestations occur almost everywhere throughout the year. We are surrounded by mosquitoes. This may include larvae carrying mosquitoes. So we have to be aware. It is almost impossible to completely eradicate mosquito infestation. But the challenge is to keep mosquitoes free around us and the animals.

These steps should be taken to prevent the emergence of mosquitoes around the house.

  • Water shouldn’t be allowed to accumulate around the house. It’s very dangerous.
  • Use bug spray.
  • Use resistant screens on doors, windows.
  • Use special mosquito nets in the dog’s small room.
  • Be careful when the dog goes out to play. Use mosquito repellent gel.
  • Keep your home cool and dry.
  • Be aware of whether heartworm symptoms occur.
  • Consult a veterinarian if necessary.

Many dogs die of heartworm disease each year and more than 1 million are infected with the disease. It is more prevalent in winter areas. Every year April month is celebrated as Heartworm Awareness Month to make everyone aware of heartworm disease.


What are the heartworm symptoms in cats?

The symptoms of heartworm disease are completely different in dogs and cats. And heartworm disease is more deadly in cats than in dogs. Some cats show no symptoms and spontaneously release themselves from heartworm disease and some infected cats suddenly fall ill and die of heartworm disease without showing any symptoms.

However, some of the symptoms are occasional nausea, sometimes Blood vomit, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing, coughing, etc. It can lead to asthma, loss of appetite, laziness and weight loss also.