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What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is exactly what it sounds like - worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected dogs. It can be detected by a simple blood test. Some dogs in the early stages of heartworm may show no signs of the disease, while advanced heartworm disease can cause a cough, sluggishness, trouble breathing, and heart problems. Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition in dogs if left untreated.  All RMLR dogs are tested for heartworm prior to adoption.

Heartworm disease has been detected in all 50 states, so it is extremely important that owners give their dog a monthly heartworm prevention pill. All adoptable RMLR dogs that are not heartworm positive are given monthly heartworm prevention pills. Contact your local veterinarian for more information on heartworm prevention.  

Heartworm larvae are carried by mosquitoes and transferred to dogs via mosquito bite. Once a dog is infected, the larvae mature and become adult heartworms. When the adult female worms release their larvae into the dog’s bloodstream, the next mosquito that bites the dog becomes infected and will transfer the disease to the next dog that it bites. This is a continuous cycle.  


Is Heartworm Disease Contagious?

No, heartworm disease is not contagious. Humans cannot contract it. Heartworms cannot be transferred directly from one dog to another without the involvement of a mosquito. If your dog is on a monthly heartworm prevention pill and is bitten by an infected mosquito, the pill should kill the heartworm larvae.


What does Heartworm Positive mean to a dog in a shelter?

For a dog that has found itself in a shelter, a positive heartworm test can be a death sentence. Heartworm disease is expensive to treat, and most shelters can't afford the time or money that goes into the treatment.

RMLR believes that heartworm positive dogs deserve a second chance at life - they are fantastic dogs that deserve a loving “forever” home. When RMLR brings in a heartworm positive dog, we are committed to paying for the treatment.


What is the treatment for Heartworm Disease?

There are varying treatment methods for heartworm disease, but the treatment time can last from a few weeks to a few months. During treatment, the dog should have restricted activity (no running or playing). After treatment, the dog can resume normal activities. 


What is the prognosis for a Heartworm Positive dog?

Every single heartworm case is different. The prognosis is based on how severe the heartworm disease is, how long the dog has had it, the age of the dog, the activity level before and during treatment, and the dog's immune system response. According to the American Heartworm Association, most dogs can be successfully treated. These dogs may have some permanent lung disease that would prevent them from being a top working dog, but they will do just fine as a family pet.