No one wants to hear that their beloved furry family member has heartworm. In case you hear that news from your local Vet, be partially relieved that most infected animals can be successfully treated. The first goal is to stabilize your pet if he or she is showing signs of the disease. Then, kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

American Heartworm Society reports that “more than one million dogs currently have heartworm disease. Heartworm is a serious canine and feline health concern that threatens animals in all 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, as well as throughout the temperate regions of the world”.

Heartworm Symptoms

The main systems for both dogs and cats are cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

Heartworms Spread

Heartworm is a preventable disease. The disease is spread from animal to animal by mosquitoes. Heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of infected animals which, can lead to heart failure and damage to other organs. Heartworm positive dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue.

Diagnostic tests

The earliest heartworms can be detected is 5 months after a dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito. Your vet can run blood tests in order to check for heartworms.


Prevention is the BEST treatment. Test annually: If a heartworm-positive dog is not tested before starting their preventive regimen, the dog will remain infected and the disease will progress. Preventive medicines do not kill heartworms and can trigger dangerous reactions and possible death. Test your dogs and cats every year at your annual vet visit.


Animals can be exposed to the disease for a variety of reasons and need to be diagnosed and put on special therapies immediately. Heartworm treatment is much more expensive than the preventive treatment. Not to mention that it isn’t easy for your sick animal. You could have multiple vet visits for bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections. Check with your vet about the options to prevent, diagnose and treat heartworm.

Cats Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, but they can be infected. The symptoms are similar to those in dogs, however most cats do not have adult worms, they have a shorter life cycle for the parasite. Unfortunately, cats run the risk of misdiagnosis because it is rare; however, heartworms can still cause organ damage and respiratory diseases.

Visit the American Heartworm Society for more resources and to get the facts about heartworm disease.

Animal Care Center in Smyrna, GA, is owned and operated by Otto H. Williams, DVM. The veterinary practice specializes in complete healthcare for cats and dogs and offers services including preventative, surgical and nonsurgical care, internal medicine, grooming and boarding to Cobb County and surrounding cities such as Vinings, Marietta, Mableton and Sandy Springs. Call today at 770.438.2694 or request an appointment.