dog being held

Dog Heartworm Test

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes when an infected mosquito bites a dog. The larvae the mosquito transmits then matures in the dog’s heart and pulmonary arteries as adult worms. These heartworms can lead to congestive heart failure if left untreated. Thankfully there are many safe and effective preventive products available to protect your dog from catching heartworm disease; please speak to our veterinary health care team to find out the best choice for your dog.

What are the symptoms of heartworm in a dog?

Mature heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries. Symptoms are similar to those of many cardiac problems and include: coughing, exercise intolerance/loss of stamina, difficulty breathing, weight loss and in advanced cases may involve fainting after exercise or swell in the belly and legs due to fluid accumulation.

How do dogs get heartworm?

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. A mosquito bites an infected dog, and the larvae develop in the mosquito. The same mosquito then bites another dog, and the larvae mature to adult worms in the dog, making him/her heartworm positive. Dogs cannot contract heartworm directly from another dog; the mosquito must be involved as the heartworm larvae develop within the mosquito.

What are the treatment options for heartworm?

As is often the case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here! There are safe and effective heartworm preventives that only require administration once per month to keep your dog safe from heartworm. We are fortunate that at this time there are few confirmed cases of heartworm in Nova Scotia. If, however, your dog is diagnosed with heartworm, the course of treatment combines numerous medications that are administered in stages for a longer duration until your dog is free from all stages of heartworm – larvae and adults. On rare occasions, surgery may be required to remove all worms successfully.

Why is recovery and heartworm treatment challenging?

Unfortunately, many dog owners do not recognize concerns until the worms have damaged the heart and surrounding vessels. The more severe the case of heartworm disease, the harder the recovery. During treatment, and for a period after, until all rounds of treatment are completed, dogs must adhere to a strict rest policy as fragments of dead worms can lead to blockages in the heart and arteries. Strict rest can be very challenging for pet owners of younger and active pets and may require pets to be crated for extended periods of time until cleared.


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Last updated: April 18, 2022

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we can continue providing our full range of services, under certain restrictions. Masks are mandatory for everyone coming inside our hospital. Maximum of 2 clients allowed into our exams rooms per appointment (there's not much room in there!)

Please note that it will take at least 24 hours for all prescription and food items to be ready for pick up (unless you have used our online store and are having your order delivered directly to your home). To place an order through our online store, visit our website and click on "Online Store".

Unfortunately, our bathroom is still closed to the public as it is in our radiology room.


If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


We are OPEN with the following hours:

Monday & Tuesday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wednesday & Thursday: 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Friday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed


Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.

We are committed to providing a safe and respectful workplace. Abusive conduct or communications will not be tolerated and may result in denial of services.

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

- Your dedicated team at Harbour Cities Veterinary Hospital