We have seen four cases of Heartworm in dogs in 2014. This is a serious disease.  All dogs in the Gippsland region should be on Heartworm prevention.


Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis a parasitic worm that is spread between animals by mosquitoes.  Although the definitive host is the dog, cats, foxes and ferrets are also susceptible to heartworm.  A mosquito carrying heartworm ‘injects’ the larvae into the skin of a susceptible animal, whereby the larvae migrate through the animal’s body establishing themselves in the heart and surrounding blood vessels to develop into adults.  These adult worms interfere with heart function causing heart failure and potentially death.

It is difficult to know the exact prevalence of heartworm in Australia, however it is considered endemic (always present across the country) with the wild dingo population acting as a constant reservoir having over a 70% infection rate.  The risk of heartworm in any geographical location is influenced by the prevalence of heartworm positive animals and mosquito numbers.

Over the past 10 year extensive heartworm testing has been performed by the Gippsland Veterinary Hospital without a single heartworm positive animal recorded.  Last week however, our Sale branch recorded a positive result in a dog from Tinamba.  This finding is quite disturbing as it means that local companion animals must now be considered ‘at risk’ from a potentially deadly worm that can be transmitted many kilometres via mosquitoes.

Clinical symptoms of heartworm infection are very similar to animals that have a primary heart problem and include; coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite, enlarged abdomen and fainting.  If the illness is not diagnosed and treated promptly, congestive heart failure can ultimately lead to death.

Diagnosis is made via a simple blood test that takes less than 15 minutes to run, and can be performed at the Gippsland Veterinary Hospital.  Chest x-rays and ultrasound may also be useful to help differentiate the clinical symptoms from another form of heart disease and/or determine the severity of a heartworm positive animal.

If an animal is found to be heartworm positive, the treatment is expensive, potentially dangerous and may be drawn out over 3 or more months.  Some animals even require the adult worms (up to 30cm) to be surgically removed from their heart!  It is FAR better to protect and prevent your pet from heartworm rather than having a very difficult decision to make regarding treatment.

Heartworm prevention comes in many shapes and forms including; ProHeart Sr12 yearly injection, Panoramis monthly tablet and Advocate monthly spot-on. Puppies and kittens under 6 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without any prior diagnostic testing.  It is recommended however, that any animal over 6 months of age or an animal that is greater than 4 months overdue for his/her heartworm prevention, be (blood) tested before starting/recommencing any form of prevention.  Using heartworm prevention on a heartworm positive animal has the potential to be fatal.

The Gippsland Veterinary Hospital (Maffra & Sale) strives to provide up to date advice to local pet owners to improve the quality of life of your beloved companions.











Heartworm Lifecycle

Tinamba.  This finding is quite disturbing as it means 

Sale Veterinary centre

  • Address: 262 York Street, Sale
  • Telephone: (03)5144 3100
  • Fax: (03)5144 5968
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Gippsland Equine Hospital

  • Address: 31 Beet Road, Maffra
  • Telephone: (03)5147 1008
  • Fax: (03)5141 1439
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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