Testing for heartworm disease and heartworm prevention is an important aspect of preventative care for your dog. Since National Heartworm Awareness Month is coming up in April, we’d like to share some helpful information that can ensure your dog’s health and lower his risk of contracting heartworm disease.


What is heartworm disease?

According to the American Heartworm Society, “heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.”

How do dogs get it?

Heartworm disease is primarily spread by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites your dog, it can spread heartworm larvae to your dog. Once these larvae find a host, they take about 6 months to mature into adult heartworms. If the heartworms reach the adult stage, they can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs.

Signs of Heartworm in Dogs

You might not notice any signs or symptoms of infection initially. However, as heartworm disease progresses, signs may include:

  • Mild, persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Increased fatigue after exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen

If you observe any of these signs of heartworm disease, it is essential that you bring your dog to the vet right away as it can be very serious and potentially fatal.

Preventing Heartworm Disease 

When it comes to heartworm disease, prevention is much easier than treatment. And the good news is that it can be easily prevented. There are several options available for preventing heartworms in dogs. If your dog is more than a month overdue for heartworm prevention, we will run a blood test first to ensure your dog isn’t infected. Then we will discuss which prevention option best fits your needs.

1. Topical Heartworm Prevention

This type of prevention is applied monthly at home to the skin on the back of the neck. It is absorbed into your dog’s body and kills any immature heartworms.

2. Oral Heartworm Prevention

Oral heartworm medications are chewable tablets you give your dog monthly at home that are generally flavored to be enticing to dogs.

3. Heartworm Prevention Injection

ProHeart 6 is a shot that protects dogs from heartworm disease for a full six months. Your vet will administer it subcutaneously (under the skin). There is also an option for a 12 month injection after having received the six month injection. This is a great option if you tend to be forgetful about giving your dog monthly pills or topical treatments. 

Schedule a Wellness Exam Today

At Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert, we will treat your beloved dog with the same intentional care we give our own animals. Call us and schedule an appointment today to make sure your dog’s heartworm prevention stays up-to-date!


Image used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/22/2023) Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash