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People often use the word “heart” to describe love, strength, and courage – qualities many of us can readily see in our beloved pets. But animals’ hearts also pump the blood that makes their lives possible, and this vital organ can be threatened by a parasitic infestation known as heartworm.
Heartworm Testing, Prevention, and Treatment


Here at St. Louis Veterinary Center in St. Louis, MO, we can provide the necessary checks, prevention, and treatment to spare your pet from the ravages of this disease.

Why Heartworm Is So Dangerous for Your Dog or Cat

An adult heartworm resembles a long, thin strand of spaghetti. But it first enters your pet’s body in its premature form through the bite of an infested mosquito. It doesn’t grow to adulthood until it has found its way to the heart and lungs. Adult heartworms slowly grow to the point that they interfere with normal cardiopulmonary function. Dogs may play host to enormous masses of worms, developing breathing problems, fatigue, loss of appetite, and other degenerative problems until they finally die. Cats usually host only a few heartworms at a time — but they also experience intense, sometimes fatal inflammatory reactions when the worms expire.

Our Veterinarian Can Protect Your Pet Against Heartworm

Our veterinarian at St. Louis Veterinary Center, Dr. Wagenknecht, can help your dog or cat steer clear of heartworm’s deadly effects. Blood tests can confirm the presence of mature or premature heartworms; these tests are commonly administered after the age of 6 months, when heartworms first become detectable. Beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age, baby animals can start to receive heartworm preventatives. These medications, which need to be given on a strict monthly schedule to remain effective, may be topical or oral products. As a valuable fringe benefit, many heartworm drugs also protect against other common parasitic worms.

While prevention is far and away the easiest and wisest way to protect your pet from heartworm, our veterinarian also offers heartworm treatment. Dogs must usually undergo an extensive drug therapy process to kill any premature heartworms and adult heartworms. Sadly, cats cannot receive this form of treatment safely due to the risk of inflammatory reactions. While a cat may outlive a small number of heartworms, the only treatment method available for severe infestations is surgery to extract the worms.

You owe it to your pet to give him the strongest, most thorough heartworm protection possible. Call our vet clinic at 314-773-6400 today to schedule a heartworm check and/or a course of preventative medication!

understanding heartworm & its’ effects

Heartworm Prevention & Treatment

Heartworm is a devastating disease for everyone involved. Here at St. Louis Veterinary Center, we can’t emphasize enough the need to have your pet on a heartworm treatment medication. Once a pet comes in with heartworm, the treatment is not only costly and long, but many pets aren’t strong enough to make it through because heartworm has done extensive damage to their body.

What is Heartworm

Heartworm is a worm that resembles cooked spaghetti. A mosquito will pick up the larvae from an infected animal. When he then bites your pet, he transfers those larvae, and they make their way to the blood vessels that go into its heart. These larvae grow into worms that are anywhere between nine and twelve inches long, depending on whether they are male or female. As they grow, they block the blood flow from your pet’s heart and lungs.

At first, there may be no noticeable symptoms. As the worms grow, your pet will become lethargic, lose its appetite and weight, and exhibit a persistent cough. As the disease worsens, your pet may have a swollen belly. Eventually, the worms will multiply to the point where your pet faces heart failure. Before his heart fails, he will have pale gums, labored breathing, and dark urine. At this point, few dogs will survive. Dogs are most susceptible to heartworm, although cats have been known to become infected. Unfortunately, cats can’t be treated like dogs can.

Mosquitos are the only known transmitters of heartworm. One pet won’t pass it to your other pets. Once infected, it takes about six months for the larvae to become adults. The adults, however, can live from five to seven years, multiplying many times while alive.

Prevention is Easy

You can’t keep mosquitos away from your pet completely. Rather than risk them getting heartworm, you can prevent it easily with a once-a-month preventative. In some cases, we can combine this with his regular flea and tick preventative. A preventative now will save you an expensive, time-consuming treatment in the future.

Heartworm Treatment in St. Louis

If one of our patients does come in with heartworm, the treatment is something that we will discuss with you in-depth. At St. Louis Veterinary Clinic, we want to do everything we can to help your pet regain its health. Give us a call today at 314-773-6400 to get your pet started on a monthly heartworm preventative, so we don’t have to have that difficult discussion with you. Both you and your pet will be much happier.