Dedicated to raising funds and awareness
for dogs and cats diagnosed
with heart disease.


Overview, Diagnosis, and Prognosis

Heartworms are so called because parasitic adult worms live in the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries. Heartworm disease is a parasitic disease spread by mosquitos and tends to be most prevalent along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, although presence of heartworms has been found in all 50 states (Eldredge, et. al., 2007). The disease continues to be a problem throughout the United States – male dogs are four times as likely to be infected as female dogs, and “outside dogs” are four to five times more likely to contract heartworms than “indoor dogs” (Eldredge, et. al., 2007). The best way to prevent heartworms is to give your dog heartworm preventative medication each month. This medication can usually be purchased at your veterinarian’s office, or in some cases can be ordered online. Information on heartworms is extensive, and treatment and diagnosis depends on an understanding of the activity, type, and life cycle of the particular parasite.


Early Signs:

  • tiring easily
  • exercise intolerance
  • a deep, soft cough

Later Stages of Disease:

  • weight loss
  • rapid breathing
  • coughing after exercise to the point of fainting
  • ribs become prominent and chest starts to bulge


How to treat depends on the number of heartworms, their location, and any other medical complications the pet may have (Eldredge, et. al., 2007). Here are a few common treatments. As always, all treatment plans should be written by a veterinarian.

  • medication therapy – aimed at killing the adult worms. This medication is toxic, and can cause animals to have adverse reactions. Your pet should always be under the supervision of a veterinarian.
  • surgical removal of worms is sometimes available for animals who do not have a significant chance of surviving medication therapy, such as geriatric pets, and pets with other forms of heart disease that compromise their ability to recover.