Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor
Medical Database

Cardiovascular Disorders

Heartworm Disease: Removal of Adult Heartworms

General Information
Heartworm disease is becoming more common in many parts of the United States. It is caused by the heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis. This parasite lives in the right side of the dog’s heart and the nearby large vessels (pulmonary arteries). The female worm produces large numbers of microscopic, immature heartworms that circulate in the blood. These immature worms (microfilariae) are taken up with the blood by a mosquito feeding on an infected dog. After living in the mosquito for 10 to 14 days, the microfilariae can then infect another dog that the mosquito feeds on. The feeding mosquito deposits infective microfilariae into the skin of another dog, and these enter the body through the mosquito bite wound. The microfilariae eventually travel to the heart where they develop into adult heartworms. The adult heartworms produce new microfilariae within 3 months. It takes at least 190 days from the time the dog is bitten by an infected mosquito until the dog becomes a new source of infective microfilariae.

Most cases of heartworm are diagnosed by finding the microfilariae in the blood. Sometimes, however, no microfilariae are found in the blood (occult heartworm disease). These cases are diagnosed by a combination of blood tests and chest radiographs (x-rays).

Failure to treat heartworm disease may result in heart failure and/or serious disease of the liver and kidneys. Untreated heartworm disease is usually fatal.

Important Points in Treatment
1. Treatment for heartworms consists of two phases: destruction of the adult heartworms, followed by elimination of microfilariae from the blood.
2. Before treatment, a thorough physical examination, including blood tests, chest radiographs (x-rays), and an electrocardiogram, is advised. Any underlying liver or kidney disease is usually treated first.
3. Heartworm disease is very serious, and complications may arise during and after treatment. The doctor will discuss the risks involved in your pet’s treatment.

An Important Update From Animal & Bird Medical Center On COVID-19

We are committed to offering a safe and healthy environment for our clients, pets and hospital team here at Animal and Bird Medical Center. The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

In being cautious and mindful of everyone’s safety, we are actively working to minimize your exposure to crowded exam rooms and long waits in the lobby.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some changes to our protocols in-hospital for the time-being…

In order to limit exposure while still providing quality care for your pet, we will be implementing special protocols to keep you safe.

We will have our veterinary technicians get a history of the patient’s symptoms and owner’s concerns via phone prior to coming into the clinic.

Our goal is for you to be able to bring your pet in for medical care but have no risk for you or our dedicated staff of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The Doctors and staff are dedicated to making sure your pet’s medical needs are taken care of during this national crisis.

We can still fill prescriptions for pick up, however, for those who prefer, non-narcotic and non-urgent prescriptions can be mailed to your home.

As always, careful hand-washing and other infection control practices can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.