Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic roundworm that is transmitted from animal to animal through mosquitoes. As its name implies, heartworms target the heart and lungs of their hosts, and can cause an array of health problems if left untreated. As a responsible pet owner, it is important to understand the risks, signs, and treatment options for heartworm. This blog post will dive into the Australian statistics of heartworm and provide you with the necessary information to protect your furry friend.


According to the Heartworm Surveillance Project Australia, roughly 1 in 179 dogs tested positive for heartworm in 2020. This is a significant increase from the previous years, indicating the rising prevalence of this disease. It is more common in coastal regions where mosquito populations are abundant, and the climate is warm and humid. Although dogs are the primary host for heartworm, it can also affect other animals such as cats, foxes, and in rare cases, even humans.


Heartworm is spread through mosquito bites. The parasitic larvae enter the bloodstream and eventually migrate to the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels. Once there, they grow, reproduce, and damage the organs with their presence. The more worms present, the more severe the clinical signs become. If left untreated, heartworm can cause irreversible damage and even death. All dogs are susceptible to heartworm, regardless of their breed, age, or sex. However, some breeds such as Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, and Jack Russells, are more vulnerable to the disease due to their genetic makeup, so it’s crucial to ensure they receive regular heartworm preventative treatment.

Clinical Signs

The clinical signs of heartworm disease can be subtle in the early stages, which makes it challenging to detect. However, as the disease progresses, your dog may display signs such as coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, lethargy, and weight loss. If your dog displays any of these signs, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Heartworm disease can be treated, but it’s a lengthy and complicated process that can be costly and stressful for your pet. It involves giving medication that kills the adult worms living in the heart and lungs, in addition to medication to reduce the damage caused to the tissues as the heartworms are killed and removed by the immune system. There is then a need for several months of rest and observation.

The best course of action is to prevent heartworm from infecting your dog in the first place. There are a variety of preventative measures available, including monthly oral medications, or an annual injection.

What should you do?

Taking preventative measures such as mosquito control and administering heartworm preventative medication is the most effective way to protect your pet from heartworm disease. Your veterinarian can recommend the most suitable preventative treatment for your dog based on their age, breed, and lifestyle. Follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian regarding prevention, testing treatment, and  anagement of the disease.


Heartworm disease is a life-threatening and potentially fatal health issue for your pets. The good news is that there are very effective preventatives available. Regular consultations with your veterinarian are essential to prevent and manage heartworm disease in your furry friend. Ensure that you maintain regular heartworm prevention treatments and monitor your pet for the signs of heartworm disease. Remember, prevention is key, and your veterinarian can provide you with all the information and guidance you need to keep your pet healthy and protected against heartworm disease. Stay informed, stay prepared, and maintain your pets’ health!

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