Heartworm

Image of puppy outside.

Heartworm has been diagnosed in dogs in all parts of the world and is actually very common. This may be due to the fact that heartworm has a virtual 100% prevalence rate in unprotected dogs living in highly endemic areas. Heartworm, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito injects a microscopic larvae which grows into an adult worm six to eighteen inches long inside the heart of the affected dog.

The worms can cause mild symptoms, such as coughing, but with time, more severe symptoms such as congestive heart failure, weight loss, fluid build up in the abdomen, fainting spells, anemia, collapse, and death usually occur.

Luckily we have several excellent medications which can prevent heartworm if given as directed. There are oral medications which need to be given monthly, and which also help protect against some intestinal parasites. There is one topical medication which is also applied monthly. An injectable medication, ProHeart, which is administered every six months, is back on the market after being withdrawn for several years.

Even if a dog has been given preventatives, it is still important to have annual checkups for heartworms by doing a blood test. Many people are not totally compliant about giving the preventive medication on time, and no medication works perfectly. If a dog has heartworms and it is given a dose of preventative, there can be a reaction that is detrimental to the dog, even deadly.

Heartworms were once thought to be rare in cats. Now we know the incidence is anywhere from 10% to 50% of the canine rate. Heartworm disease in cats is different than in dogs. Cats usually test negative on the routine blood test done in the hospital, the worms are smaller and usually do not produce microfilaria which are like baby heartworms that circulate in the bloodstream. Veterinarians have to do different tests, sometimes more than one, to diagnose heartworms in cats.

The symptoms in cats are different also. Cats usually have asthma signs or cough, even vomit. Cats can die acutely. The treatment for adult heartworms in dogs is expensive and potentially harmful to the dog. This is why it is much better to just prevent them in the first place. There is not a treatment for adult heartworms in cats. Many veterinarians are now recommending monthly heartworms preventative for cats in addition to dogs, since heartworm can be such a serious problem.

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Monday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

4:00 pm-7:00 pm

Tuesday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

4:00 pm-7:00 pm

Wednesday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

4:00 pm-7:00 pm

Thursday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

4:00 pm-7:00 pm

Friday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

4:00 pm-7:00 pm

Saturday:

10:00 am-1:00 pm

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

4:30 pm-6:00 pm

* Sunday is for pick-up and drop-off of boarders ONLY

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "I want to thank the staff at Occoquan Animal Hospital, especially Dr. Morse and Dr. Farge for the care you provided to my dog, Cocoa, for the past 13 years. From the day we brought him in for his first check up when he was only about 4 to 6 months old, until that final breath he took under the loving hands of Dr. Farge, we will always value the exceptional care he received by the staff at Occoquan Animal Hospital during these 13 years."
    Karen G.
  • "I love this place. The doctors and staff really show they care about the health of your pets. They are honest and will not try to make you pay for unnecessary treatments just to make money. I've trusted them with all my animals for as long as I can remember. I won't go anywhere else."
    Vicki S.
  • "This is the first Vet hospital that I have ever been to that really cares about the animals and the owners more than the amount of money they can charge. I love the way they treat my dogs as if they are the only animals on earth. I come from Fairfax for their good service. This will be where my little buddies will go as long as we are in VA. The best."
    Theresa B.