Heartworm (Dirofiliaria immitis) is a parasite, spread by mosquitoes.
Infected dogs have microfilariae, an immature form of heartworm, circulating in their bloodstream. Microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when feeding on the blood of infected dogs. The parasites develop into heartworm larva inside the mosquito and a single bite from a carrier mosquito can infect your pet.
As heartworms mature in the dog’s heart they can cause physical blockage and thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels. In the early stages of infection there may be no visible signs, however infection may lead to signs of heart failure (lethargy, coughing, pot belly) and even death. Heartworm is present throughout Australia, especially the top end.
Heartworm is a major condition to treat but is easy to prevent and should form part of your pets health care routine. We have very effective treatment options available including a yearly heartworm injection for dogs (Proheart) administered by our vets. Heartworm injections can be done when your dog visits for its vaccinations. Otherwise, monthly prevention can be used mostly in the form of oral treatments including tablets.
If your dog is not on heartworm prevention and is older than six months of age, we strongly recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, ideally followed by a repeat test in six months after commencing. After that, it is important that your dog is kept up to date with heartworm prevention.
If your dog is showing symptoms of heartworm disease or the blood test is positive, we may recommend more blood tests, chest x-rays or other diagnostics.