What is heartworm disease in pets?

September 16, 2020

Heartworm is a parasitic worm that resides in the heart chambers and in the arteries of the lungs of dogs and cats. This disease was previously widespread around Sydney. As owners have diligently used heartworm prevention over the years, the disease has been largely reduced in the area. However, some wild dogs and foxes may carry a heartworm burden and as such, pet dogs unprotected by heartworm preventatives are still at risk of the disease.

In cats, heartworm is extremely rare in Sydney.

How is heartworm disease spread?

Mosquitoes spread heartworm disease. When an infected mosquito bites the pet, the parasites enter the bloodstream. The heartworm larvae migrate to the heart and the lungs where they mature into adult heartworms. This process from larvae to adult takes 6 months.

Signs of heartworm disease in dog

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Death

Signs of heartworm disease in cats

  • Vomiting
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Weight loss
  • Death

How to diagnose heartworm disease?

Our vets can perform a blood test to establish within 10 minutes if your dog has a heartworm burden.

Only an adult heartworm burden is detected in this blood test, as it takes 6 months for the heartworm larvae to mature into adults. Therefore, the test only detects a heartworm infestation 6 months after your pet was first infected.

When to test for heartworm disease?

If oral heartworm preventative was skipped – please wait 6 months after the missed dose before we perform the heartworm blood test

If your pet has never had heartworm prevention and is over 7 months’ old

Prevention for heartworm

Prevention for heartworm is better than treatment. Please begin heartworm prevention when your pet is 10-12 weeks old. In dogs, the medications are administered as a top-spot or a tablet given monthly or a yearly heartworm injection given by our veterinarians.

In cats, heartworm is extremely rare in Sydney. However, if you would like to ensure your cat is completely protected against heartworm, the monthly top-spot application is the most effective method.

If you would like to learn more about heartworm and its prevention with our staff, please contact us or call us on 1300 MAT VET or 1300 628 838.

Got a question?

We’re here to help you with any urgent enquiries or assistance you might need. Need a little extra help, or not sure if you should bring your pet in for a check-up? Give our team a call and we’ll happily answer your questions.