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Preventing Heartworm Disease in Pets

Heartworm can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, and other organ damage in our pets. That's why our Waxhaw vets believe that prevention of heartworm is the crucial. Help keep your pet free from heartworm, learn more... 

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. Our pets contract heartworm through the bite of an infected mosquito. 

Pets (including dogs, cats and ferrets) can become the worm's 'definitive host'. This means that the worms reach adulthood, mate and produce offspring while living inside the pet.

The worms are referred to as heartworms because they typically live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of an infected pet. 

Prevent heartworm disease | Waxhaw Vet

What are symptoms of heartworm disease?

Symptoms of heartworm disease may include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss and a swollen abdomen. However, these symptoms don't typically appear until the disease has progressed severely.

How does the vet check my pet for heartworms?

Your vet will do blood tests in order to look for proteins, called antigens, which are released by the heartworms into the pet's bloodstream.

Approximately 5 months after your pet has been bitten by an infected mosquito, the heartworm proteins can be detected.

What if my pet is diagnosed with heartworms?

Treatment for heartworm disease can be potentially toxic to your pet's body and may even cause serious complications. Treatment of heartworm disease is also expensive, and requires hospitalization, multiple visits to the vet, bloodwork, x-rays, and a series of injections.

A number of treatment options are available if your pet is diagnosed with heartworms. Your vet help you to decide which is the best treatment option for your pet.


Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs. Melarsomine dihydrochloride is administered by an injection into the pet's back muscles.

There are also topical FDA-approved solutions available from your vet which can be applied to the pet's skin to help to get rid of parasites in the bloodstream.

However, when it come to heartworm disease - the best treatment is prevention!

How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworm disease?

The best way to protect your pet from heartworm disease is with preventive medication from your vet and annual blood tests. 

Even if your pet is already on preventive heartworm medication, annual bloodtests are a good idea. 

The fact is, preventing heartworm is safe, easy and much more affordable than treating the progressed disease. Another positive side to heartworm prevention medications is that they may also protect your pet against other parasites such as whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

Heartworm Prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet.

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Providence South Animal Hospital provides comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Waxhaw.

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