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14130 Juanita Drive Kirkland, WA 98034

Heartworm Prevention with Our Kirkland Veterinarian

Heartworm disease is an extremely serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. The disease is caused by foot-long worms that thrive in your pet’s heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets. Heartworm disease can cause heart failure, severe lung disease and damage to other organs in their body. Heartworm disease can affect both cats and dogs and in rare instances-even humans. The good news is that with just a simple trip to our veterinarian in Kirkland, heartworm prevention is possible.

veterinarian in Kirkland holding a dog and cat after heartworm prevention

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Dogs are a natural host for heartworms, meaning that heartworms living inside the dog will mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If veterinary treatment is avoided, the numbers will increase (dogs can harbor several hundred worms in their body).

Heartworm disease can cause lasting damage to the dog’s heart, lungs, and arteries and will affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, heartworm prevention from your vet at the animal hospital is by far the best option and treatment. When treatment is needed, it should be administered by the vet as early in the disease course as possible.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm disease in cats is much different than heartworm disease in dogs. Cats are an atypical host for heartworms and the majority of worms in cats will not survive to the adult stage. A cat affected with heartworms typically only has one to three worms and generally no adults.

Unfortunately, this means the disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, so it is essential to understand that even immature worms can cause serious damage, including heartworm associated respiratory disease. However, medication used to treat dogs for heartworm infections cannot be used in cats, so the only means of protecting cats against the disease is prevention.

Tips for Heartworm Prevention

The most important way to prevent heartworms in your pet is to get them vaccinated. Heartworm disease is contracted through mosquito bites, so the primary form of prevention is to protect your pet from the risk of bites. There are several things you can do to prevent the risk of heartworm disease and to prevent mosquito infestations:

  • Stay up to date on heartworm vaccinations
  • Remove any standing water from your yard, including in areas, such as tops of trash cans, toys, and gardening equipment.
  • Check window screens for holes and caulk any small holes and crevices that mosquitoes can enter your home through.
  • There are products your vet may recommend for preventing heartworm infection, most of which are chew tabs that you can put in your pet’s food.
  • Veterinary treatment is generally used to get rid of the parasites and to prevent further infestation in your pet.

Visit Our Kirkland Veterinarian To Schedule Your Pet's Heartworm Vaccination

Contact Finn Hill Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment for your pet’s vaccination against heartworm disease. The best way to prevent heartworm disease is with prevention with help from our Kirkland veterinarian. Call us at 425-814-2220!

Heartworm Testing

Heartworm disease is caused by mosquitoes that carry the parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, otherwise known as the heartworm. When a carrier mosquito bites an animal, it passes the heartworm into the animal's bloodstream, where it grows and multiplies. It becomes multiple hair-like worms that infest the right ventricle of the heart and the artery that leads to the lungs. If not treated, heartworm disease can cause permanent damage or death to infected dogs and cats. Here at Finn Hill Animal Hospital, we test all adult pets for heartworm during their annual wellness exams.

Dog running and playing outside after his heartworm test in Kirkland, WA.

Signs of Heartworm Disease

In the first six months or so, most animals won't show any symptoms of heartworm infection, especially if they aren't infested with a large number of worms. Once the disease progresses, your pet may become reluctant to exercise and get tired very quickly, may cough a lot and can sometimes even collapse. In the worst untreated cases, pets can develop congestive heart failure.

Testing for Heartworm Disease

Puppies and kittens less than 6 months of age aren't old enough to carry adult worms, so testing is useless in animals this young. Testing for heartworm should begin with your pet's wellness exam nearing its first birthday. There are two heartworm tests that our vet can administer to your animal. The primary test for heartworms is the heartworm antigen test that specifically tests for female adult worms. Results are detectable from 6 months after infection and can be successful with as few as 1-3 adult worms in the heart. False positives are possible, especially if:

  • There are only immature female or male worms
  • There is a low number of worms present
  • The pet has been infected for less than 5 months
  • There were technical problems with the test itself

Any positive test should be followed up by a test for microfilaria. This blood test confirms that there are adult worms in the heart. 

If your pet is displaying symptoms and gets negative test results, our vet may suspect a hidden heartworm infection. He may order x-rays or an ultrasound to do further testing for changes in the blood vessels and heart that can indicate a heartworm infection.

Looking for a Veterinarian in Kirkland?

If your pet hasn't been checked for heartworm this year, our veterinary team can help. Call our office to schedule a visit. You can reach us at 425-814-2220. Give us a call and we'll set up an appointment that fits in with your busy lifestyle.

Veterinary Topics