Frequently asked questions

What is heartworm disease?


Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the US and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs, as associated blood vessels.




Which animals are susceptible to heartworm disease?


Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, but the disease has also been found in cats, ferrets, wolves, foxes, coyotes, and even sea lions. In ferrets, their heart is so small that even one (1) heartworm can cause serious damage.




How is heartworm disease transmitted?


The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Female heartworms living in an infected animal produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites, it picks up these baby worms which develop into mature larve over a period of 10-14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another animal, the larve are deposited into the new host. The larve will develop into sexually mature heartworms in approxiamaely 6 months. The adults can live for 5-7 years in dogs,




What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?


Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen.




How can I prevent heartworm disease in my pets?


Monthly treatment with Medications containing ivermectin or moxidectin, are the best preventatives for dogs. Medications containing ivermectin are safe for use in cats. Ferrets are given preventatives containing ivermectin or selamectin. Preventative medications need to be given year round.




My pet has been tested positive for heartworm antigen. Now what?


Dogs who test positive can undergo treatment to clear thier hearts of the worms, but it is an involved process that can take up to 4 months for the "fast kill" method, and as long as 1 year for the "slow kill" method. The treatment requires confinement and reduced physical activity for the duration of the treatment. Ferrets who test positive for heartworms can be treated with the same drugs used to treat dogs. There is no treatment available for cats, they are less susceptible than dogs or ferrets, but monthly preventative with protect them from the disease. This is most important in cats that are allowed outdoors.




What is the average cost of heartworm prevention vs heartworm treatment?


Heartworm testing averages about $25.00. Preventative medications are based on weight of animal with lowest doses averaging from $5 - $15 each month, depending on the type recommended by your veterinarian. The cost of treatment for infected dogs is also based on weight and ranges from $1,200 - $1,800. There are some veterinarians and nonprofits who can treat at a reduced cost to you. Look at this chart to get a quick idea of the savings of prevention vs treatment:




Why test/prevent/treat heartworm disease in rescue animals?


Testing and providing preventative treatment of rescue animals: *Reduces the number of heartworm hosting animals that could spread the disease to other animals. ** Improves the likelyhood that the animal will be adopted. *** Helps maintain the animal's health