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Do I need to put my dog heartworm preventive if she’s not an “outside dog”?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Worm infestation is common in dogs. Most of these worms would give the dog a pot belied appearance and a rough shoddy looking coat. Heartworm infestation is another matter. This parasite kills dogs. Don’t let your dog be another victim of heartworm. Administer preventive measures even if you make sure that your dog cannot venture outside your mosquito-free home.

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Canine heartworm disease

Heartworm is a disease caused by the Dirofilaria Immitis parasite. Dogs that live in areas where there are many mosquitoes are susceptible to heartworm as these parasites are transmitted from one infected dog to another through mosquito bites. A mosquito that has bitten an infected dog will transfer the larva of the worm to a dog or to other animals it bites. Symptoms of infestation will be apparent when the worms have reached a certain number that can no longer be tolerated by the dog’s system. 

Signs of canine heartworm disease

Once Dirofilaria Immitis has entered the bloodstream of the dog, it would take 6 to 7 months before it would turn into an adult and begin to reproduce. The life span of these worms inside a dog is from 5 to 7 years. A dog that has few heartworms may not show clinical signs of the disease. About 50 worms in a 25 kg dog mean infestation of the right chamber of the heart as well as the arteries of the lungs.  Coughing would be the first sign. Because the dog will tire easily, it will not be interested in strenuous activities. The dog will have breathing difficulties. Severe cases of infestation will cause the dog to lose consciousness after an activity. The dog will have a distended abdomen because of fluid retention. A health check up would show that the infested dog would have enlarged liver and abnormal heart beats.


If heartworm disease has not progressed too far, successful treatment would be possible. Heart, liver and kidney issues that are the secondary problems associated with heartworm disease must be treated first. The purpose is to prepare the dog to withstand the heartworm treatment. An arsenic compound to kill adult worms will be administered for two days. No further treatment will be given for several weeks. This is done so that dead worms will be absorbed by the dog’s system. After several weeks of inactivity, daily dose if microfilaricide will be administered for a week to kill the microifilariae.


Preventives can be in the form of injection or oral medications. Ensure that the dog is protected from this killer disease. Ask a vet to administer preventives especially during the months when the numbers of mosquitoes increase. Even if your pet is an “inside dog” there will always be a risk that it can be bitten by mosquitoes.

Heartworms in Dogs

Heartworm Prevention for Dogs & Puppies

Pet Heartworm Medicine


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