Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

June Newsletter

Heartworm Disease

It's almost summer, which also means that it is officially Heartworm Season. If you havenít already, it is now time to begin your heartworm preventative. It is also time to get your pet tested for heartworm, even if he is on preventative.

Heartworm is a parasite that infests the heart and surrounding vessels. It is transmitted in its larval stage by mosquitos, and within six months grows to an adult worm. In dogs, the diagnostic test for heartworm can only detect an adult worm, which means if a dog has a positive test result, it was infected the previous year.

In dogs, clinical signs of heartworm often depend on the severity of the worm burden. Many dogs show no signs at all, and infection is found only with routine screening. If enough worms are present, however, dogs can begin to show signs of heart disease, including lethargy, shortness of breath, coughing, and in severe cases, bloated abdomen. Unfortunately, in some cases the only sign of heartworm infestation is sudden death.

The current preventative is very safe and effective, and relatively inexpensive compared to treatment. Like any medication, however, it is not always 100% effective. That is why the company that makes the preventative recommends yearly testing. In the rare case that your dog becomes positive while on regular prevention, the company will then pay for the treatment.

Most preventatives are given once a month. Many are flavored and dogs seem enjoy their monthly treat. Several recommended preventative products also control intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms, which are both transmissible to humans.

Heartworm in cats is a little different. In cats, heartworm is difficult to diagnose and almost impossible to treat. In cats, the likelihood of sudden death, even from the infection of one worm, is much more likely. Standard diagnostic tests for cats will detect if they have been exposed, but not if they have a current worm burden. Therefore, the easiest, least expensive and safest approach to heartworm in cats is prevention. There are both topical and oral preventatives for cats.

Nebraska has mosquitoes, so Nebraska has heartworms. Please contact your veterinarian for more information. If your dog is already on preventative, it is now time to make an appointment for his yearly heartworm test. And if you have a cat, please call for more information. A simple preventative could save a life.