Can Puppies Get Heartworms? Yes, and Here’s What You Need to Know!

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs caused by heartworms, which are spread by mosquitoes. Although heartworms are more commonly found in adult dogs, puppies are also vulnerable to this disease. In fact, puppies are at a higher risk of developing heartworms due to their weaker immune system and undeveloped heart and lungs. Therefore, it is important to take preventative measures to ensure your puppy’s health and well-being.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of heartworm disease in puppies, including its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected dogs. They are spread through bites from infected mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it picks up microfilariae (baby heartworms) from its blood. These microfilariae develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito, which are then transmitted to another dog when the mosquito feeds again. Once inside the dog, the larvae travel to the heart and lungs, where they grow into adult worms and reproduce.

What Causes Heartworms in Puppies?

Puppies can get heartworms in the same way adult dogs do – through mosquito bites. However, due to their weaker immune system, puppies are more susceptible to heartworms than adult dogs. In addition, puppies are born with some antibodies from their mother, but these antibodies only protect them for a few weeks. As the antibodies wear off, puppies become more vulnerable to infections like heartworms.

What are the Symptoms of Heartworms in Puppies?

The symptoms of heartworms in puppies are similar to those in adult dogs. However, since puppies are smaller and their organs are not fully developed, they may show more severe symptoms than adult dogs.

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Fluid accumulation in the lungs
  • Pale gums
  • Fainting or collapse

How is Heartworm Disease Diagnosed in Puppies?

Heartworm disease in puppies is diagnosed using a blood test called antigen test. This test detects proteins produced by adult female heartworms in the bloodstream. However, since it takes about 6-7 months for the adult heartworms to develop, puppies may not test positive until they are several months old.

How to Prevent Heartworms in Puppies?

The best way to prevent heartworm disease in puppies is to start them on a regular heartworm prevention program. This can include oral or topical medication that kills the heartworm larvae before they can develop into adult worms. Some common heartworm medications for puppies include:

  • Ivermectin
  • Pyrantel pamoate
  • Milbemycin oxime
  • Selamectin

It is important to talk to your veterinarian about the best heartworm prevention for your puppy. In addition to medication, you can protect your puppy from heartworms by:

  • Keeping them indoors during peak mosquito hours
  • Using mosquito repellent products
  • Keeping your yard free of standing water

How is Heartworm Disease Treated in Puppies?

The treatment for heartworm disease in puppies is similar to that in adult dogs, but it can be more challenging due to their smaller size and weaker immune system. The treatment generally involves a series of injections that kill the adult heartworms over several months. However, this treatment can be risky for puppies, and some may not survive.

Since prevention is the best course of action, it is important to take preventative measures to avoid heartworm disease in the first place. However, if your puppy does develop heartworms, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible to prevent the disease from becoming fatal.

Final Thoughts

Puppies are just as vulnerable to heartworm disease as adult dogs, but the good news is that this disease is preventable. By taking preventative measures and starting your puppy on a heartworm prevention program as soon as possible, you can ensure their lifelong health and happiness.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: Can puppies get heartworms from their mother?
    A: No, heartworms are not passed from mother to puppy through the placenta or milk. They are only transmitted through mosquito bites.
  • Q: At what age can my puppy start heartworm prevention?
    A: Puppies can start heartworm prevention as early as 6-8 weeks of age. However, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the best prevention program for your puppy.
  • Q: Can heartworms be detected through a physical exam?
    A: No, heartworms cannot be detected through a physical exam. A blood test is required to diagnose heartworm disease.
  • Q: Can heartworm disease be fatal in puppies?
    A: Yes, heartworm disease can be fatal in puppies if left untreated. However, with prompt treatment and preventative measures, it can be easily prevented.


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