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Heartworm is a worm found throughout mainland Australia that can cause potentially fatal disease in dogs. Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes so any dog in the Darwin region can be infected if they are not given regular preventative treatment. Heartworms can grow up to 30cm long and live in the heart and the surrounding blood vessels. This can lead to heart failure and severe lung disease if left untreated. Treatment for heartworm disease is also quite risky so PREVENTION is best.


How can my dog be infected with heartworm?

Your dog can be infected with heartworm through a mosquito bite.


How is heartworm prevented?

There are a number of excellent products available to prevent heartworm in dogs. These include a yearly injection and/or monthly tablets. It is essential that heartworm prevention is given on time and regularly.


What symptoms would my dog show if infected?

The main symptoms of an established heartworm infection are exercise intolerance and a cough. Some dogs may also lose weight and become quite lethargic or tired. Collapse, difficulty breathing, pulmonary embolism and heart failure can occur as the heartworm infestation becomes more severe. Symptoms usually do not appear for a long time after your pet is infected, due to worms initially being microscopic, and then continuing to grow. It can take up to a year post infection before your dog starts showing signs and by then the damage sustained may be permanent.


How is heartworm infection diagnosed?

Heartworm infection is first detected through a blood test that can be run in house while you wait. This test only detects adult heartworm. If the result is negative we recommend repeating the test six months later which will pick up any juvenile heartworm that may have been unable to be detected at the time of the first test.

If your dog is showing symptoms of heartworm disease or the blood test is positive, we may recommend performing more blood tests, chest xrays or other diagnostics.


Can heartworm infection be treated?

Heartworm infection can be treated. The recommended treatment does depend on how severe the infection is. In severe cases the treatment is long and unfortunately not all dogs survive. Because treatment is not always successful we strongly recommend regular prevention.


Can my cat be infected with heartworm?

Cats can be infected with heartworm although it is very rare compared to dogs. We do not routinely recommend heartworm prevention in cats but there are several products available for prevention. Please contact us if you would like any further information.

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