Heartworm Facts From Your Lexington Veterinarian

heartworm factsHeartworm is a major problem for dogs and cats.  It is much cheaper to prevent heartworm disease than it is to treat once your pet gets it.  According to Petsandparasites.org, 1 in every 90 dogs tested in Kentucky,  will test positive for heartworms.  Although they consider Kentucky to have moderate prevalence of heartworm, you want to protect your pet the best way possible.  Here are some heartworm facts:

What is Heartworm

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a round worm like parasite that is passed from host to host by mosquitoes.  It only takes one mosquito bite to transmit the disease. Heartworm usually shows up in dogs or cats but other animals can also get the disease.   Once infected, the worm can grow to be 1 foot in length.  They live in the heart and large blood vessels of the lungs in the effected animal.  It is treatable but left untreated your pet can get pretty uncomfortable and die of congestive heart failure.

Symptoms of Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworms live in dogs or cats around 6 or 7 months before they mature. During this time, there are no symptoms present.  The worms grow through different stages and it is possible they can end up in different parts of the body causing strange symptoms.  Usually they end up in the lungs and cause coughing, coughing and exhaustion when exercising and lethargy.  As the disease progresses and more adult heartworm is present, you will notice your pet coughing up blood, fainting and eventually they may die if left untreated.


If your pet gets heartworm, you can expect a long treatment period.  Your pet will be given medicine to kill the worms.  During this time, they must be kept inactive so that the dead worms won’t break up and get caught in their lungs.  Heavy infestations may require surgery to remove the worms. Your veterinarian in Lexington will be able to help you by accessing your pet and making sure the extent of the infection isn’t too severe.  They will be able to provide you with the best course of treatment.


Heartworms can be prevented pretty easily.  In Kentucky the threat of heartworms is greatest during summer months when mosquitoes are active.  Your best bet to prevent heartworms is to bring your pet to your veterinarian in Lexington for their annual checkup and then follow the recommendations of your doctor to prevent heartworms and other parasites.  If you have any questions about your pet or heartworm, please call Locust Trace Veterinary Clinic as soon as possible.  We will be happy to help you keep your pet healthy.