Heartworm as scary as it sounds: worms that live in your dog’s heart. Sadly, heartworm disease can readily kill, but fortunately, it's also readily preventable.

Mosquitoes transmit the disease to dogs by injecting tiny heartworm larvae into their skin. The larvae develop in the tissues and migrate to the heart where they grow into adult worms. The adults live in the heart and the large surrounding blood vessels. They reproduce and release more larval offspring into the dog’s blood stream, which can then be taken by a mosquito and transmitted to another dog or cat.

Due to the stress that adult worms have on a dog’s heart, there are often clinical signs of heart disease or heart failure, like lethargy, tiring easily with exercise, coughing, loss of appetite and an enlarged abdomen. To check for heartworm, your vet will perform a blood test and may take chest radiographs or ultrasound.

Heartworm can be treated, but it carries risks, and there are no guarantees of success. Your dog may need a series of arsenic-based injections or even surgery to remove the adult worms from their heart. Prevention is better than cure, so ask your vet about a heartworm prevention programme from when your puppy is 12 weeks old. After that, they can continue to be protected all year long as an adult dog

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