Heartworm Treatment

Heartworms – Are they killing your Sheltie?

We can not stress enough to you the importance of Heartworm prevention medicine. To many
Shelties come in to rescue each year Heartworm positive. We must do all that we can to inform
the Sheltie lovers that are considering adopting a rescue from us why this is so important.

How do dogs get heartworms?

Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. And the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease.

Heartworm disease has not only spread throughout the United States, but it’s also now found in areas where veterinarians used to say “Oh, we don’t have heartworm disease.” Areas like Oregon, California, Arizona, and desert areas — where irrigation and building are allowing mosquitoes to survive. And if you have mosquitoes and you have animals, you’re going to have heartworms. It’s just that simple. It takes about seven months, once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing.

Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length, can live 5-7 years, and a dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.

Can people get heartworms from their dogs?

It can only be passed on by mosquitoes. It’s a specific parasite that only affects dogs and cats and ferrets and other mammals. In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle. The heartworm will migrate to the lung and cause a round lesion that looks like a tumor. But these are very rare cases.

If one of my dogs has heartworms, can he give it to my other dogs?

No. Again, the only way heartworms are transmitted is through the bite of an infected mosquito. And even if an 
uninfected mosquito bit your infected dog, and then bit your uninfected dog the same night, he wouldn’t transmit the parasite from one dog to the other. That’s because when a mosquito bites an infected animal, the heartworm needs to undergo an incubation period in the mosquito before the mosquito can infect other animals.

Is it OK to adopt a dog with heartworms?

It’s a very common problem in animal shelters today, and public shelters rarely have the money to treat heartworm disease. It’s perfectly acceptable to adopt a dog with heartworms, but you have to be dedicated to having the disease treated appropriately, because it’s a horrible disease that can lead to a dog’s death if left untreated.

As you can see in the chart below Florida has a high incident rate for heartworms.

Incidence Map 2010_All Logos

Your Shelties heart could look like this if you do not use Heartworm prevention medicine. Don’t let it become the heart shown below.


A German Shepherds dog heart infested with heartworms. The heart is in a jar filled with formaldehyde.

The orientation of the heart is sideways, with the apex to the left, and the great vessels to the right. The right ventricle is cut open, allowing the heartworms to be seen at the bottom. Photo taken by Joel Mills on June 12, 2006.


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