Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease affecting pets in the United States. Here in Denver, North Carolina, mosquitoes are a major factor in the spread of heartworms, biting infected animals and spreading the heartworm larvae when they move on and bite their next host. These larvae can grow to be foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of infected animals. Heartworms can cause heart failure, lung disease and damage to other organs. There are few, if any, early signs of heartworm disease in dogs and cats. It is a serious, progressive disease, but the earlier it is detected, the better the chances that your pet will recover.

Our licensed veterinarians at East Lincoln Animal Hospital can test your pet for heartworms with just a small blood sample. The test works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Results are obtained quickly and our doctors will determine whether more tests are needed and if treatment is necessary. Dogs need to be tested annually even when they are on heartworm prevention year-round to make sure that the preventive program is working. Also, if you miss a heartworm treatment, give it to your dog late, or if your dog spits out or vomits up the heartworm pill, your dog is at risk.

If your dog tests positively for heartworms, further tests may be ordered. Confirmation of the presence of heartworms is important because of the complexity of the treatment. Your doctor at East Lincoln Animal Hospital will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary. If heartworms are detected, you will need to restrict your dog’s exercise, your dog’s condition will need to be stabilized, treatment will be administered, and further tests will be taken later to determine the success of the treatment.

If your dog’s test results come back negative, then your veterinarian will start your dog on the appropriate preventive treatment that you will need to administer year-round for the rest of his life.

Cats should be put on a preventive treatment and tested as recommended by your veterinarian. Cats are not a natural host for heartworms however, just a few can make a cat very ill. Prevention in cats is critical because there is no approved drug treatment for heartworm infection in cats. If your cat tests positive for heartworms, they can be helped with good veterinary care and a long-term management plan.