Heartworm Disease and Prevention

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Heartworm Disease has always been an issue in Eastern Tennessee but since mosquitoes transmit the disease, the last few years have seen an escalation in positive dogs. If we have a wet year, the following year will generally show more dogs infected with the dangerous parasite. Heartworm disease can infect cats and even humans but are less common in these species. There is presently only one accepted method of treatment of heartworm positive dogs, this involves treatment with an arsenic compound and is not without risks. There is no accepted treatment for cats.

Prevention is the best and safest method to control this disease in both cats and dogs. Monthly medications have made this a relatively easy matter.

There has been much talk lately about the “slow kill method” of treating heartworms. This is at best a crap shoot at controlling this disease. Some dogs will clear after two years of taking medications but the majority does not and at what costs? Two years of slow damage to the heart may greatly shorten a patient’s life span.

We Recommend

1) Heartworm preventative for all dogs and outside cats.

2) Annual testing. (No preventative is 100 percent and two years of damage before detection is not worth the cost savings)

3) Year round preventative because mosquitoes can be seen as late as December and as early as February.

Heartworm disease has a national society dedicated to this one disease. That gives you an idea of the complexity and seriousness of this condition. The information on heartworm disease constantly evolves so ask a veterinarian every year what has changed.


Thank You Dr. Hackett for writing such a great article!

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