Heartworm – the forgotten parasite

Heartworm has always been part of the conversation when it comes to pet’s preventative care, but with recent infections in our area, it is important that is moves to the fore again. 


Heartworm is a parasite of dogs, cats and ferrets.

It is transmitted by mosquitoes who bite an infected animal and then transfer it to a non-infected animal.

It is potentially fatal to those it infects.

It has not been diagnosed in our area for quite some time, mostly due to good prevention by pet owners and a few dry years.

However, with the wet spring/summer in 2016 and complacency with preventative care, there has been an increase in mosquito numbers and unprotected dogs and subsequently an increase in positive cases of heartworm.

Symptoms are vague, and in dogs and include a persistent dry cough, lack of stamina when exercising, weight loss and poor coat quality.

In cats, the most common signs are persistent vomiting and trouble breathing.

Treatment is not always successful and is both intensive and expensive; so, prevention is key.

There are many options for prevention, however for dogs Barossa Vet Service recommends an annual injection that acts in a similar way to a vaccination and prevents disease.

It is convenient and cannot be forgotten like that pesky monthly tablet.

Interestingly, 40% of positive cases were actually on monthly treatment, but due to inconsistency with administration have been able to contract the disease.   

For cats, a spot on treatment is recommended monthly and has the added benefit of providing protection against fleas, mites and intestinal worms.

For more information or to find out the best option for your pet, please don’t hesitate to phone or call in and discuss with the friendly staff at Barossa Veterinary Service.

You can reach Catherine via info@barossavetservice.com.au or visit their website for more information.


Catherine Harper of Barossa & Kapunda Veterinary Clinic