Heartworm disease in dogs is nothing new. In fact, the American Heartworm Society was established in 1974 to help further education and awareness about this nasty parasite and the dangers it poses to our dogs and cats. Even more concerning is that this disease is on the rise nationwide, making it something that needs to be understood by every pet owner in America.

Incidence Maps of the Rise of Heartworm Disease

These maps show the progression of the heartworm disease as it spreads across the country from 2001 through 2016. Updates are taken every three years based on data from veterinary practices, and we’ve seen indications locally that these trends fit our region as well. In 2017 alone, we’ve had a dramatic rise in positive heartworm tests, and even if your dog is on preventative, it’s still important to have them tested. 

incidence map of heartworm disease

Does Heartworm Prevention Really Work?

Yes, it does, but there are always exceptions which is why it is important to make sure your dog is tested annually for heartworm disease. Many people opt to only give preventative in the warmer months when mosquitoes, the host for the heartworms, are more active, or they simple forget to give the dose every single month without fail. Even one missed dose can cause a lapse in coverage and with climate change and milder winters in recent years, the risk of your dog contracting heartworm is on the rise. 

Is There A Treatment for Heartworm Disease?

In dogs, yes there is. However treatment is always risky as well as expensive and not always successful. Treatment needs to follow very specific protocol and management of the dog’s lifestyle and activity and can take quite a few months before the infection is cleared. The only way to determine the right treatment plan and management for your dog if they test positive, is with your vet. This guide from the AHS helps explain heartworm treatment guidelines for the pet owner so that you have an idea of what to expect as you map out your pet’s treatment plan.

What About Cats and Heartworm Disease?

Cats are not the typical host for the heartworms, but they can contract the disease and instances of infected cats and cats testing positive are also on the rise. Unlike their canine counterparts however, there is no approved treatment that can kill the worms in cats if they do contract the disease. The best option is supportive care for the pulmonary and any other issues and complications they experience along with regular preventative to keep any new worms from being introduced. The hope is that the cat will outlive the adult worms – but in some cases sudden death can occur due to a dramatic anaphylactic type response of the cat’s body to the adult worms. This is why prevention is so incredibly important in ALL pets. Check out this summary of current feline guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of heartworm in cats by AHS for more information.


Overall, we’re seeing an increased instance of heartworm disease in dogs and cats year over year with 2017 off to an alarming start. The saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely holds true here, and we’re happy to carry Sentinel Spectrum for dogs and Revolution for cats to help keep your pet protected. An annual exam and testing for heartworm is important to ensure that your prevention plan is working. And thanks to our friends at Sentinel, every purchase of 6 mos of Sentinel Spectrum for your dog automatically enters you in a drawing to win this amazing gift basket! Winner announced June 1st, so don’t delay – book your appointment and get your heartworm preventative today!

prevent heartworm disease gift basket