Health and Nutrition

Heartworm: Is Your Dog At Risk?

(NC)—Does your dog love the outdoors? She’s in good company. Unfortunately, being outside also comes with health risks like heartworm disease.

Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes and one bite from an infected mosquito is enough to transmit the disease to your dog. Coyotes, foxes, and other wild animals can also become infected. Once this happens, these animals can become heartworm reservoirs for mosquitoes to feed on, leading to a constant risk of infection for your dog.

Since heartworms are not readily visible the way ticks and fleas are, you may not even know your dog is infected. Symptoms may not appear for several months until the worms arrive in the dog’s heart and lungs. Your dog may look fine but could still be infected. Left untreated, heartworms can cause severe damage to organs and may eventually cause death. It is noteworthy that heartworm disease is not just a canine disease. Heartworms do affect cats differently than dogs, but the disease is equally serious.

Today, highly-effective, preventative medications are available from veterinarians. They are generally given monthly once the mosquito season begins. To protect your pet, start the heartworm prevention as directed by your veterinarian and continue through the mosquito season. Look for heartworm treatments that also protect against other parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and roundworms.

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Note: This section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.

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