Heartworms live in your dog's heart. If not treated they will kill your dog. Heartworms are spread through mosquitos, so even if your dog never comes in contact with another dog he can still get heartworms. The only way to prevent heartworms is by using a monthly heartworm preventative-either a pill you give your dog or a liquid you put on his skin. You need to get these from your vet. If you live in Georgia and your dog is not on heartworm preventative he will get heartworms.
Once your dog has heartworms you have 2 options:
~The "slow kill" method uses a type of heartworm preventative along with an antibiotic. This method can take up to two years to kill the heartworms, but costs less than $50. There is more information here:
~The traditional method has to be done at your vet's office and takes two months. Here is an Atlanta area vet that offers low cost heartworm treatment (varies from $225-$615 depending on weight of the dog):
WellPet Humane in Chamblee, GA
There is no reason not to use a monthly heartworm preventative. It will save you money in costly treatments, and it will save your pet's life.
Here is a video of Ernie, a dog we rescued from Dekalb County animal control. He had difficulty breathing, and was skinny but with a bloated stomach. We took him to the vet immediately and discovered that he was in the final stages of heartworm disease. His internal organs were already shutting down, and there was no way to save him. Ernie passed away the day after this video was made.