Did you know that there are five different types of worms that can seriously affect your animals? One of the most common health problems for dogs and other animals is worms. Worms generally negatively impact a dog's health, and in this continuing series, we will discuss each type of worm:

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease can be deadly in animals. The disease starts with the bite of an infected mosquito. The worms penetrate the dog's tissue, and they migrate to the bloodstream and then enter your pet's heart and lungs. The heartworms can be foot-long worms.

Heartworm disease affects the following mammal species which include: dogs, cats and ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans.


If your dog has these symptoms, contact your vet asap to determine if it is heartworm disease or not:

  • a mild persistent cough
  • reluctanceto exercise
  • Difficulty breathing
  • fatigueafter moderate activity
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • Enlarged liver

As the disease progresses, many pets develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen.


Prevention is the best weapon against heartworm disease. A vet can perform a yearly blood test to detect a heartworm infection. It is recommended that treatment with a broad-spectrum parasite control product be given to your dog year-round to prevent heartworm.

Can heartworm be cured?

Most dogs that are infected can be successfully treated.

The disease protocol is to stabilize your dog first if he is showing signs of disease. Then using medications eliminate all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

Transmitted from one pet to another?

A dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If heartworm is left untreated, the number of worms can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies.

In the heartworm life cycle, mosquitos play the most significant role. Heartworms that are living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream.

Worms can seriously damage your dog’s internal organs and lead to loss of consciousness and death if untreated. If your dog has any of these symptoms of worms, contact your vet immediately.

Once diagnosed, most intestinal worms can be reasonably easy to treat with medication. Heartworm is much more severe to your dog's health. Treatment can be expensive and difficult for your dog. The best approach with heartworm is monthly preventive medication, which can also prevent other worm infections. Contact your vet for recommendations for your dog.

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.