1. Dogs can get heartworms from other animals |
Heartworms can only be transmitted to your pet by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry heartworm larvae that they have picked up from infected animals. The larvae develop in the mosquito, which can then be passed on to dogs and cats when bitten by the infected mosquito.
When a pet is bitten, the heartworm larvae are transferred onto their cat or dog’s skin, entering the bloodstream and migrating to the heart and lungs. It takes approximately six months for larval worms to migrate, mature, and reproduce.
2. Once dogs are treated for heartworm, they become immune to future infections |
Unfortunately, dogs can be infected with heartworm multiple times.
3. Heartworm disease is only a problem in some states |
Heartworm disease has been detected in all 50 states.
4. Heartworms can only live inside a pet for 6 months |
Heartworms can live in dogs for up to seven years and cats for up to three years.
5. Heartworm disease can be deadly |
Once heartworm larvae enter a pet’s bloodstream, they reproduce rapidly, with multiple generations affecting the lungs and heart. Heartworm causes severe inflammation, which a pet’s immune system will try to fight off. Heartworms also prevent normal blood flow, which leads to congestive heart failure. Without treatment, heartworm disease will worsen and become deadly.
6. My cat cannot get heartworm disease |
While heartworms are most common in dogs, cats can also be infected. If an infected mosquito bites a cat, heartworms can survive in their system, but not reproduce. Unfortunately, even a few worms can cause significant inflammation in a cat and there is no approved medication to kill adult heartworms in cats. Heartworm-related health problems for cats include respiratory disease (HARD) with asthma-like symptoms that can become life-threatening.
7. My pet only needs heartworm preventative in the spring and summer months |
The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round treatment for heartworm for dogs and cats. Options that your veterinarian may recommend include monthly chewables, injections or topicals.
8. I don’t need a prescription for my dog’s heartworm prevention |
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that any heartworm medication is to be prescribed on the order of a licensed veterinarian. Your veterinarian will prescribe a heartworm preventative that is recommended for your pet’s species, weight, and lifestyle.
9. My pet does not need an annual heartworm test if they receive heartworm prevention |
Annual testing is necessary for pets, even when they are on a year-round heartworm prevention protocol, to make sure that the medication is working. Heartworm medications are very effective, but pets can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it is leaving a window open to infection.
10. Heartworm treatment costs about the same as prevention |
A year’s worth of prevention is small in comparison to the cost of treatment. Heartworm treatment is available for dogs but is lengthy, expensive, and painful. A medication to kill adult worms must be injected into a dog’s muscles. Several treatments spaced 30 days apart may be needed, as well as with other medications to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. Treatment usually lasts several months and dogs need to be kept inactive to minimize the risk of dying worms lodging in their lungs which can lead to sudden death.