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  • Writer's pictureEric

A Closer Look at Heartworm Disease

You are in your veterinarian's office and hear something terrifying. Your dog has heartworm disease. It sounds very concerning, and rightfully so. Heartworm disease is a life-threatening infection of parasitic worms that live in your dog's heart and lungs. Without treatment to eliminate the parasites, your dog's life will be at risk. But, how did they get there and what can you do about it? Let's take a closer look...

For your dog, this story actually began months or years earlier, when he was bitten by a mosquito. Mosquitos can transmit heartworm larvae from dog to dog, which then takes months to grow into adult heartworms living in your dog's heart. A dog infected with heartworm disease cannot transmit the worms to another dog alone. Instead, mosquitos serve as the mode of transportation from one dog to the next. So, what can you do?

Like most medical issues, prevention is the key! For as little as $5 per month, you can give your dog a treat-like medication to ensure those mosquitos can't pass heartworms on through a bite. These preventative medications kill the worms before they ever have the chance to develop into adults. One dose every 30 days is all it takes for your dog to be safe.

If your dog already has a heartworm infection, the treatment becomes much more expensive and complicated. Medications and vet costs necessary for treatment can carry expenses of up to $2,000. But that isn't the only bad news. Getting those worms out of your dog's heart will usually require a 4-month treatment, which consists of injections of medication to kill the parasites in the heart slowly. Unlike intestinal parasites that die and pass through your dog's stool, dead heartworms do not have an easy way out of your dog's body. They must be absorbed internally by your dog as they die and float through the bloodstream. There is a risk of the worms breaking off too fast and causing a blockage in your dog's circulatory system, leading to severe issues or death of your dog. Because of this, the treatment requires your family's best friend to be on bed rest the entire time, so a spike in heart rate or blood pressure does not cause a worm to break off and cause a blockage. Treatment for heartworm diseases carries a high success rate, but the journey is painful and preventable. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which heartworm preventative is best for your family's best friend.

Bandit Resting
Bandit Resting after a Round of Treatment

This closer look at heartworm disease is something Happy Bark is facing as you read this blog. Happy Bark rescued Bandit from an overcrowded shelter in the south. He is a sweet boy who was facing an unknown future when we committed to finding him a better life. Unfortunately, Bandit tested positive for heartworm disease. Bandit is undergoing the same heartworm treatment you just read about. His foster home is committed to seeing him through this tough phase in his life before we find him his forever family. It is easy to help Happy Bark pay for Bandit's treatment. Any amount helps! Head over to to help us offset this costly expense.


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