Canine heartworm disease is caused by the worm Dirofilaria immitisthat lives in the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs. The presence of these worms causes strain to the heart and an intense reaction in the blood vessels. This parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes. For this reason, heartworm disease is more common in warm, humid areas of the world.

Outdoor dogs are predisposed and male dogs may be more likely to develop infection than females. The most important predisposing factor is failure to receive heartworm preventative medication. All dogs living in an area where heartworm disease exists are at risk, even if they live entirely indoors.

Impact on the pet is variable. Dogs can be without symptoms if the infection is light or has occurred recently. In some cases, heartworm disease can cause severe debilitation and eventually may be fatal.

Diagnosis and Treatment Notes:


  • Heartworm disease is generally diagnosed by physical examination and blood tests. Chest x-rays, electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood work are done to determine the severity of the disease. Sometimes, an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) is recommended.
  • Treatment depends on the severity of the disease, your individual pet, and your veterinarian. Heartworms are treated in stages. The adult worms are most commonly killed with melarsomine. After a short period of time, the baby heartworms are then killed with a different medication. Discuss treatment details when your pet is diagnosed with this condition.
  • Prevention: Prevention of heartworm disease should be undertaken in all dogs. These include monthly and daily preventatives.


What to Watch for*:

  • Coughing (sometimes with blood)
  • Heavy breathing
  • Unwillingness to exercise
  • Collapse
  • Signs of right sided congestive heart failure, which includes fluid distention of the belly

*Please notify us if you notice any of the above signs or if you have any questions!  

Dear Valued Clients

During these challenging times, there have been some unforeseen changes at The Big Easy Animal Hospital. I cannot express enough my sincere apology for any inconvenience you have experienced at The Big Easy during these times. As we strive to make the practice safe to protect everyone including you, your family, and our Big Easy team and their families, I’ve decided to make certain changes while we are under this pandemic. These changes will be temporary.


Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday:
Walk Ins: Check-in starts at 9:45am.There are a limited amount of patients we can accept. Our receptionists will be happy to assist you with options to help guide you and your pet(s).)


Saturday Hours

Saturdays will be TECHNICIAN APPOINTMENTS only. These will include boosters, bloodwork, nail trims, certain diagnostics, etc. There will not be a veterinarian on site. While I understand these changes can be inconvenient, I have listed local veterinary clinics that we have contacted and are open to see walk-ins throughout the week and Saturdays as well. For life threatening emergencies that occur outside business hours, please contact the following 24-hour animal hospitals below.

Please, be safe and healthy.

Thank you all for your understanding. -Aileen Ruiz, DVM


24 Hour Emergency Care:


Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center

807 Camp Horne Road
Pittsburgh, PA



4224 Northern Pike
Monroeville, PA

VCA Castle Shannon Animal Hospital

3610 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA

Veterinarians Accepting Walk in Care:

Penn Animal Hospital

2205 Penn Avenue

North Boros Veterinary Hospital

2255 Babcock Blvd



Contact Us

You have Successfully Subscribed!