Heartworms are a parasite commonly contracted by dogs. This disease is serious and can be fatal to pups, which is why veterinarians recommend that you provide your dog with preventative pet care and medication to avoid an infection. The following guide outlines what you need to know to identify potential problems and protect your four-legged friend from illness.

A Guide to Heartworm Disease

What Is It?

Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the circulatory system of their host. Adults can grow up to 14 inches long, and they are usually found in the heart and nearby large blood vessels. When they reproduce, larvae spread throughout the host’s circulatory system. 

A dog can’t get this parasite directly from another pup, but a mosquito that feeds on an infected animal can transfer the larvae to a healthy pet. Infection is most common in warm weather when mosquitoes are prevalent.

What Are the Symptoms?


Since the parasites affect the heart, your dog will get tired quicker than usual and might not want to play, go on walks, or participate in energy-exerting activities. They may also eat less and begin losing weight. A mild but lingering cough is also common. 

If heartworm disease goes untreated, a pup may develop heart failure; this condition is often recognized by a buildup of fluid in the abdomen, giving the belly a bloated or swollen appearance.

How Is It Treated?

Most veterinarians prefer that dogs are given preventative medication to keep them from getting infected. This is because heartworm disease is difficult to treat and dangerous for your dog even after receiving care.  Owners often administer this once a month in the form of a medicated chewable treat.

If a pup has contracted heartworms, it will receive two medications—one to kill the adult parasites and another to kill the larvae. After the worms die, they must break down and be processed by the dog’s body, which takes a month. During this time, you need to keep your pup calm and avoid exercise. This often entails crating them as much as possible and keeping them away from other dogs that can entice them into high-energy behavior. The pieces of heartworm often travel to the lungs, and exercise and playtime can cause fatal heart and lung complications.


Give your dog the best care when preventing and treating heartworm disease by making an appointment with Dr. Robin's Housecall Veterinary Services in Denver, CO. For over 12 years, this mobile veterinarian has offered a range of services, from nail trims to minor surgery, for pets who can’t travel and owners with busy schedules. Dr. Robin is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association. She also offers pet vaccinations, diagnostic services, and microchipping to keep your furry companions safe and healthy. Call (970) 217-1260 to make an appointment, and visit her online to learn more.