Can Dogs Get Heartworm Disease? Everything You Need to Know

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect dogs. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. The parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body.

Many dog owners wonder if their pets can get heartworm disease. The answer is yes, dogs can get heartworm disease. In fact, heartworm disease is a common problem in dogs, especially in areas with warm and humid climates. It is important for dog owners to understand the risk factors for heartworm disease and take steps to prevent their pets from becoming infected.

In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of heartworm disease in dogs. We will also discuss the importance of heartworm prevention and the steps that dog owners can take to protect their pets from this potentially deadly disease.

Understanding Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis that is transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, the larvae enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart and lungs, where they grow and mature into adult worms. These adult worms can grow up to 12 inches long and can cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries.

Heartworm disease is a progressive disease, meaning that it gets worse over time if left untreated. In the early stages, there may be no visible symptoms, but as the disease progresses, symptoms may include coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and weight loss. In severe cases, heartworm disease can lead to heart failure and death.

The good news is that heartworm disease is preventable. There are several FDA-approved preventatives available, including monthly pills, topical treatments, and injections. It is important to talk to your veterinarian about which preventative is best for your dog, as some preventatives may not be suitable for all dogs.

In addition to preventative measures, it is also important to have your dog tested for heartworm disease annually. Early detection is key to successful treatment, and the earlier the disease is detected, the better the chances of a full recovery. Treatment for heartworm disease can be expensive and can take several months, but it is often successful if caught early.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread by mosquitoes. Here are some common symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs:

  • A persistent cough
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapsing or fainting

It’s important to note that not all dogs with heartworm disease will show symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. That’s why it’s crucial to have your dog tested regularly for heartworms and to give them preventive medication.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian right away. The sooner heartworm disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a successful recovery.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease can be diagnosed through a blood test that detects the presence of adult heartworms. The test is recommended for all dogs every 12 months, and more frequently for dogs living in areas with high incidence of heartworm disease. Early detection of heartworm disease is important, as the disease can cause serious damage to the heart and lungs if left untreated.

Treatment for heartworm disease typically involves a series of injections that kill the adult heartworms. The injections are administered by a veterinarian and require careful monitoring of the dog’s health. In some cases, additional medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms or complications of the disease.

After treatment, it is important to prevent re-infection by administering monthly heartworm preventive medication. Dogs treated for heartworm disease should be tested for the presence of heartworms 6 months after treatment, and annually thereafter.

Preventing Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect dogs. Fortunately, it is easy to prevent with the right measures. Here are some ways to prevent heartworm disease in dogs:

  • Give your dog regular checkups: Regular checkups with your veterinarian can help detect heartworm disease early and prevent it from progressing. Your veterinarian can also recommend the best preventive measures for your dog.
  • Use preventive medication: Preventive medication is the most effective way to prevent heartworm disease. These medications come in various forms, including pills, topical applications, and injections. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best medication for your dog based on their age, weight, and overall health.
  • Keep your dog indoors during mosquito season: Mosquitoes are the primary carriers of heartworm disease. Keeping your dog indoors during mosquito season can reduce their exposure to mosquitoes and lower their risk of getting heartworm disease.
  • Use mosquito repellent: Mosquito repellent can help keep mosquitoes away from your dog. However, it is important to use a repellent that is safe for dogs and to follow the instructions carefully.

By following these preventive measures, you can help keep your dog safe from heartworm disease. Remember to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best preventive measures for your dog.


Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can affect dogs of any breed and age. It is caused by the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and can lead to serious health complications and even death.

Preventing heartworm disease is essential for keeping your dog healthy. This can be done by administering a monthly heartworm preventive medication, reducing your dog’s exposure to mosquitoes, and having your dog tested for heartworms annually. Early detection and treatment are key to managing heartworm disease and minimizing its impact on your dog’s health.

If you suspect that your dog may have heartworm disease, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of heartworms and develop a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s needs. Treatment may involve medications to kill the adult worms, as well as supportive care to manage any complications.

Remember, prevention is the best approach to managing heartworm disease in dogs. By taking steps to reduce your dog’s risk of exposure to mosquitoes and administering a monthly heartworm preventive medication, you can help keep your dog healthy and free from this potentially life-threatening condition.

You may also like...