Heartworm disease is a silent killer, veterinarian says

South Texas region has one of worst rates nationwide

SAN ANTONIO – Veterinarians call it a silent killer and in San Antonio the chances of a pet being infected with heartworms is higher than most places around the country.

"Probably about 90 percent of our stray dogs in San Antonio are probably infected with heartworms," veterinary technician Crystal Tarr said.

Tarr also works with SNIPSA. It's where she met seven-year-old Ginger, a blind dachshund found wandering the streets of San Antonio. Tarr fell in love and adopted Ginger, but Tarr knew Ginger had several health issues that needed to be addressed, one of which was heartworms.

"I'm very loving towards my pets so when she was very painful and nauseous I debated taking her to the emergency clinic because I just didn't want her to hurt. That's the biggest thing."

Not only is treatment painful for the dog it's also expensive, whereas a preventative is simple and cheap. Local veterinarians, like Dr. Lori Stephens, told KSAT12 News that a monthly preventative for a 40lb dog costs about $100-120 a year versus treating the same dog infected with heartworms for about $1500.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected dog. With our high stray population, that puts your pet at a higher risk.

"We start to see coughing, exercise intolerance, fatigue, and weight loss is another [symptom] we commonly see. In the end stages of heartworm disease, we actually begin to see a backup of fluid into the abdomen because the heart is so full of worms it has gone into failure," Dr. Stephens said.

It's why veterinarians say it's so important for pet owners to be informed and protect their pets against what they call a silent killer. Adding that by the time a dog shows symptoms of heartworm disease, it may be too late.

For more information on heartworm disease you can click here.