What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are parasites, like roundworms or tapeworms, that are transmitted through the bloodstream via mosquitos to dogs and cats.  Six to seven months after a dog is infected, fully grown heartworms live in its heart and lungs.  Dogs with heartworms often cough, tire easily, and sometimes cough up blood.  

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention is key. Once an infection is detected and diagnosed your veterinarian will develop a plan for treatment. Communication with your veterinarian is important. Tell them about symptoms, and communicate concerns. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the worms. The best thing you can do for your pet is to have them checked regularly as directed by your veterinarian.

Treating heartworms is not only costly ($500-$1000), but it is difficult for dogs and cats.  Complete rest is needed.  Once a dog begins heartworm treatment, the adult worms decompose and are carried to the lungs where they are reabsorbed by small blood vessels.  The treatment plan differs for each dog, but generally takes around 3 months depending on the severity of the heartworms, age of the dog, and health of dog.  The good news is that heartworm treatment is incredibly effective so we are able to save heartworm positive dogs and find them forever homes.

You Can Help

Pflugerville Pets Alive is dedicated to helping the pets in our program become healthy!  Layla and Snorkels are two PPA canines that need your help.  They will begin their heartworm treatments soon. Donations to help with their treatments or monthly donations for preventatives for animals in our care can be made at https://pflugervillepetsalive.org/donate/.

Heartworm Myths & Misconceptions

  • Heartworms are contagious.
    This is the most common misconception we hear, and fortunately it is not true. The only way for your pet to be infected is to be bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • Mosquito season occurs at the same time every year.
    When we have warm winters and early springs, like we did this year, mosquitos can be present year-round. This means there is no predictable “mosquito season.”  It only takes ONE mosquito bite for your dog to be infected.  
  • Dry climates don’t have heartworm problems.
    Any climate is susceptible to heartworms, even arid climates. Irrigation systems, retention ponds, and swimming pools all attract mosquitos.  Where there are mosquitos, there is a threat of heartworms.
  • Cats are not at risk for heartworm disease.
    It is true that heartworms primarily infect dogs; however, cats can be infected as well. Outdoor cats are more at risk, but indoor cats can still get bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • It’s OK if my pet misses a round of prevention or is late taking heartworm prevention.
    If your pet is on a prescribed prevention cycle and misses a round, The American Heartworm Society advises that you consult your veterinarian and get your pet back on the cycle immediately. Your pet will also need a retest in seven months because it takes about seven months before heartworms can be diagnosed.
  • Puppies and kittens are born with immunity.
    Puppies and kittens are not immune, though their mothers can share some immunity through nursing. The American Heartworm Society recommends consulting with your veterinarian to know when to begin a preventive regimen.



The American Heartworm Association: https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/heartworm-basics

PetCare RX: https://www.petcarerx.com/article/dont-let-heartworm-get-your-pets-heart/219

Pet MD: http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/parasites/myths-about-heartworms


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