Heartworm in Dogs: Signs, Treatments, and Prevention in Ruston, LA

Heartworm is a serious condition that can impact dogs all over the country. It is a bigger risk in specific states, but heartworm is a problem that all dog owners need to be aware of. Knowing the signs of heartworm can save your dog’s life, as this kind of parasitic infection can be deadly.

Heartworm preventatives should be part of the routine care that you give to your dogs and cats, no matter where you live. You can easily keep your pets on a routine to prevent this kind of infestation with medications provided by your vet. Knowing more about this condition will help you to be aware of the early warning signs and prevent your pet from contracting heartworms.

heartworm in dogs

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a disease that is parasitic in nature. This condition is caused by a foot-long worm that lives in the heart and the lungs of affected animals. The worms cause severe lung and heart damage over time, and this condition can be deadly. Heartworms can be communicated by mosquitos which carry the parasite and pass it along to the animals that they feed on.

Wolves, coyotes, ferrets, and foxes can also get heartworm. Dogs that live in areas where there are larger numbers of mosquitos will be more at risk for contracting this condition, but heartworm is not limited to specific areas of the country.

Signs of Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm can be very hard to recognize in the earliest stages. This is because there are often no symptoms until the infection has grown more entrenched. However, dogs that are very active might show symptoms earlier than dogs that are more sedentary.

Common heartworm symptoms are:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Coughing during activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Heart failure
  • Caval syndrome which has symptoms like pale gums and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine

These warning signs should not be ignored. It becomes far more difficult, sometimes even impossible, to treat heartworm when the infestation is quite advanced. Dogs can develop a heavy load of parasites quite rapidly when it comes to heartworm, which is part of why this parasite is such a concern for vets and dog owners alike.

Owners need to be aware of their dog’s normal behaviors, especially when they are exerting. One of the very first warning signs that something is wrong is when your dog’s behavior changes or if they are coughing or panting more than usual. If you notice behavior changes in your dog and they are coughing, take them to the vet immediately. Your vet will be able to examine your dog and help identify the causes for them coughing and panting. They will take immediate action and make sure your dog gets the treatment they need if they have heartworms.


Heartworm can be treated in a few ways. There are various medications that will kill heartworms, and if your dog has a very small number of these invaders in their system, this is usually all that is required to treat the infestation. However, if your dog is heavily infested with heartworm, it can be quite risky to kill the worms because of the fear of the toxicity that this can cause in your dog’s bloodstream.

Some dogs will require stabilization before any treatment can be done, which is most common in the late stages of the disease. Your dog might have to stay at the vet to get IV fluids, blood transfusions, and other supportive care before your vet tries to kill the worms.

Dogs that have a more moderate infestation might need to be very quiet and fairly inactive during the treatment phase. This is to prevent the spread of toxicity throughout the body and to allow the heart and lungs to rest while the worms are eradicated. Treatment, even at this phase, can be hard on your pet, and you might need to leave them with your veterinarian for observation while the process of killing the heartworm is carried out. I


Prevention is the best way to handle heartworm. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm, which can be done during a routine visit to your vet. Puppies under seven months of age can be given their first dose of heartworm prevention without having to be tested first. All older dogs will be tested before they are treated to prevent a mass heartworm death that can lead to severe toxicity in the body.

Dogs can be kept on preventatives for this parasite by owners. These medications are almost always given in the form of small dog treats on a regular schedule. Pets love these little treats and usually eat them without complaint. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your dog heartworm free, and the treatments are quite affordable as well.

If your dog has had a lapse in prevention for heartworm, your vet will need to take another blood test before resuming regular treatment protocols. This is always required just in case your dog has developed an advanced infestation in the time that they have not been getting their heartworm preventatives.

Seek Veterinary Care if Your Dog Has Heartworm 

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to heartworms. It is very affordable to keep your dog on heartworm preventatives, and you will have no trouble getting your dog to eat their medication in most cases. Treating heartworm once it is present can be quite risky for your dog. This is why

Heartworm is more common in some parts of the US, but your dog can get heartworm no matter where you live. You should be sure that all of your dogs are on heartworm prevention medications and that you stay current on their heartworm medications to prevent a potentially deadly outcome. For more information about heartworm in dogs, or if you need to schedule an appointment, contact Lagniappe Animal Health in Ruston, LA by calling (318) 255-3303. Our team will be there to help every step of the way.