Heartworm Disease

    Heartworm disease is serious, life-threatening, and completely preventable. Heartworms cause severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Heartworm is treatable in dogs, but there is no cure for heartworm disease in cats.

    HSSC’s Animal Clinic offers in-house blood tests that can confirm if a dog has heartworm disease in a few minutes. The Animal Clinic also sells heartworm preventives at a fraction of the price of other providers. See Heartworm Pricing and Schedule an Appointment.

    Heartworm affects far too many canines, especially in Southwest Florida. HSSC is one of the few no-kill shelters that will take on the task of healing a heartworm positive dog. Every adoptable dog receives a blood test. If the dog is positive for heartworms, HSSC will treat the dog. Treatment is costly and time-intensive, and, as a result, many shelters are unable to treat heartworm dogs. HSSC is fortunate to be able to do so. Hundreds of animals have been treated and given a second chance. Read some of their Heartwarming Tails below.

    Heartworm FAQs

    Here are the most frequently asked questions about heartworm disease. For additional information and resources, please click to visit the American Heartworm Society’s website
    How do dogs get heartworm?
    Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important. A bite from just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease. Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it takes about seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. They then lodge in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow up to 12 inches in length, can live five to seven years, and a dog can have as many as 250 worms in its system.

    Healing Hearts

    Heartworm is only spread through mosquitoes and is very costly to treat. As a result, many shelters are unable to afford the expense. Or, for space reasons, they cannot hold an animal through the minimum three-week treatment protocol. Once the animal is treated and healed, it can be adopted to a loving family and lead a full and active life.

    Thanks to generous donors and the support of foundation grants, HSSC has helped rescue, treat, and save hundreds of dogs that were heartworm positive.

    Support for the Healing Hearts Fund provided by:



    Sweet heartworm positive Chihuahua Aly was transported to HSSC from a local high-kill shelter. Now healed, Aly is ready for her next adventure with her new family.



    Like most Retrievers, Andrew has no shortage of love to give. This three-year-old Labrador was transported to HSSC from an overcrowded Humane Society in Georgia. Heartworm positive, Andrew required expensive medical treatment and some TLC. After he healed like the champ he is, he found his furever home.



    Axel, a two-year-old Poodle mix, was almost a heartworm casualty. He came to HSSC from a hoarding case in December 2015. His heartworm treatments left him seriously ill. He spent two months recovering before being cleared for adoption. Now he's happy in his furever home.


    Charity Navigator

    HSSC has received the coveted 4-star rating from Charity NavigatorAmerica’s premier independent charity evaluator, for consecutive years. Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that HSSC adheres to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Additionaly, HSSC has a perfect score of 100. HSSC is the only perfect-scoring animal-welfare organization in Florida. Nationwide, HSSC is one of just eight perfect-scoring animal-welfare organizations.



    Ben was a sweet, two-year-old Labrador Retriever when he arrived at HSSC from Acadiana Animal Aid in Louisiana, and he was also heartworm positive. This loving boy was adopted only one week after HSSC healed his heart. Happy tails, Ben!



    Coco is a lucky little Chihuahua who came to HSSC from Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Animal Services when their shelter became overcrowded. He quickly found his furever home after HSSC gave him the treatment and care he needed. Coco is a happy little guy who loves people, and his tail never stops wagging. 



    At just two years old, Cookie had already been through more than any dog should ever have to endure. She came from a hoarding case in Louisiana. Not only was she heartworm positive, she was also pregnant. After giving birth and weening her pups (many of whom were adopted from HSSC too!), she was treated for heartworms, spayed, and adopted.



    Delilah was part of a group of dogs rescued from flooding in Mississippi in early 2016. This four-year-old Great Dane was treated for heartworm and was adopted by an HSSC staffer that spring. Delilah can now be seen around the shelter, often with her friend Khloe the Chihuahua.



    Kaleb is a big lover-boy who came to HSSC from a local high-kill shelter when they became overcrowded. Being heartworm positive did not bring down this gentle teddy bear’s spirits. A man full of energy and love, he quickly found his furever home only one month after treatment!



    Mason was adopted as a puppy from HSSC, but was returned seven years later by his owner. He was thin, had ringworm, and was heartworm positive. We gave Mason the love and medical care he desperately needed, and he was nursed back to health. After a lengthy recovery, he was adopted into a wonderful family with four children.



    Peaches came from a hoarding situation in Louisiana. She was terrified and cowered in her kennel at first; she had to be carried everywhere because she wouldn’t walk. Our medical staff realized she was in pain and needed to have her leg amputated. In addition, she had heartworms. After recovering from surgery and heartworm treatment, one of our staffers took extra time to socialize her. Her new family first saw her when they had a birthday party at HSSC.



    Pete was heartworm positive and living in a local high-kill shelter. HSSC successfully treated this five-year-old Argentinian Dogo for heartworm, then he met his new family.



    Poppin, a two-year-old Rat Terrier, came to HSSC from a hoarding case in Louisiana. His experience had left him extremely shy. The combined efforts of the HSSC staff and volunteer fosters helped him get more comfortable around people. In the meantime, he was treated for heartworm, then adopted.



    Walter was transported to HSSC from Acadiana Animal Aid in Louisiana in desperate need of medical attention. He was heartworm positive at only one year old and needed a lot of TLC. Walter went home happy, healthy, and with a healed heart less than one month after being brought to HSSC! 



    Zoe was transported to HSSC from a local high-kill shelter. At five years old, this sweet girl survived her treatments and was adopted less than one month later. She’s a lucky girl to have been brought to HSSC and to have found her furever home..