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Heartworm Prevention - Signs to Watch For in Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and even death in pets. Our Citrus County know the best treatment is prevention, so in today's post, they explain how best to protect your dog from heartworms.


A parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread through the bite of a mosquito, is the primary cause of heartworm disease in pets living in the Citrus County area.

The worm makes your dog their 'definitive host'. This means that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside your pet.

These worms are known as heartworms because they live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected animals.

Signs of Heartworm in Dogs

Sadly, the symptoms of heartworm aren't apparent until the disease has progressed severely. Typical symptoms of progressed heartworm disease include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, a swollen abdomen, and weight loss.

Diagnosing Heartworm in Dogs

Blood tests are used by vets to detect heartworm proteins (antigens) in your dog's blood.

Heartworm proteins cannot be detected until about 5 months after an infected mosquito bites your pet.

Treating Heartworm in Dogs

Preventing heart disease is much cheaper and better for your pet than treatment.

A number of treatment options are available if your pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease. Your veterinarian can help you to choose the right treatment for your animal.

Keep in mind that treatment is expensive and requires multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections. It's also potentially toxic to your pet’s body and may cause serious complications.

The FDA has approved an arsenic-containing drug called Melarsomine Dihydrochloride to kill adult heartworms in pets. This drug is administered by your vet through an injection into the back muscles of your pet.

Topical FDA-approved solutions are also available to treat heartworm. These solutions help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream when applied to your pet's skin.

Heartworm Prevention in Dogs

The primary way of preventing heartworm disease is by keeping your pet on a prevention medication available from your vet.

Even if your pet is already on preventive heartworm medication, our Citrus County vets recommend testing your pet for heartworms annually.

Many heartworm preventive medications will also protect your pet against other parasites including roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Heartworm prevention is easy, safe, and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Speak to our veterinarian professionals about heartworm prevention for your pet.

At Dunnellon Animal Hospital, heartworm Prevention is a core pillar of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your dog today.

New patients are always welcome.

We look forward to meeting your precious pet at Dunnellon Animal Hospital.

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