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Heartworms 101

May 1, 2021

Summer is coming … and so are fleas, ticks, and other creepy-crawlies. One parasite that is particularly dangerous to our furry friends is the heartworm. These disgusting worms can make Fluffy and Fido very sick, and can even be fatal! Read on as a Cornelius, NC vet discusses heartworms, and why it’s so important to protect your pet from them.

Life Cycle

Heartworms are transmitted from dog to dog by everyone’s favorite insect: the mosquito. They are in larval form at the time Fido is infected, but soon begin to grow. It takes about 6 months for them to reach adult size and start reproducing. This is when things get dangerous for Man’s Best Friend. The worms infest dogs’ hearts, as well as their lungs and arteries. Needless to say, interfering with these vital organs can be very dangerous. Left untreated, infestations can be deadly.


The signs of heartworm infestations can be fairly subtle at first. You may notice your pooch panting heavily and/or getting tired more quickly than he used to. As the infestation continues, the symptoms will get worse. These include coughing, weight loss, reduced interest in play, lethargy, trembling, and weakness. Severe infestations can lead to seizures, heart attacks, comas, and, unfortunately, death.

Keeping Fido Safe

It’s actually quite easy for you to keep your canine buddy safe from these horrible parasites. Just keep up with his heartworm prevention! There are quite a few different products to choose from, so ask your vet for specific recommendations. If your pup has had any lapses in his preventative care, he’ll need to be tested before starting treatment. This is because preventative products do not kill live worms. If Fido were to be infested, he would need to go through some fairly intense treatments, which could even include surgery.


Cats can and do get heartworms. However, the worms don’t affect kitties in the same way they do dogs. Feline bodies aren’t as hospitable to the worms as canine ones are, so most of their heartworms will die before maturing. This means infestations often do resolve naturally in kitties. However, they are still extremely dangerous. Even a single worm can cause severe—and permanent–damage to your furry buddy’s vital organs, which can be fatal. Keep up with Fluffy’s parasite control!

Contact us, your Cornelius, NC pet clinic, for your pet’s veterinary care needs. We’re here to help!