Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition that can affect dogs, cats, and other mammals. It is caused by the Dirofilaria immitis parasitic worm and is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes infected with the larvae. This should always be treated as a very serious condition and a vet visit is recommended if you suspect your pet may be infected.

Here’s how heartworm disease develops in pets:

  • Mosquito Bite: When an infected mosquito bites a pet, it injects microscopic larvae (called microfilariae) into the bloodstream.
  • Migration: The microfilariae circulate in the bloodstream and gradually mature into larval stages over several weeks. They migrate through the pet’s body, primarily targeting the heart and major blood vessels.
  • Heart and Lung Infection: Once the larvae reach the heart and nearby blood vessels, they continue to grow into adult worms. The adult heartworms can reach lengths of up to 12 inches and reside in the heart, pulmonary arteries, and lungs of the infected animal.
  • Health Complications: As the number of adult heartworms increases, they can cause significant damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The worms interfere with the normal blood flow, leading to decreased oxygen supply, inflammation, and damage to these vital organs. If left untreated, heartworm disease can result in heart failure, lung disease, organ damage, and ultimately, death.

It’s important to note that heartworm disease affects dogs more commonly than cats. While dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, cats are considered atypical hosts, and the disease manifestations in cats can be different and often subtler. Cats may have fewer adult worms, but even a small number can cause significant health problems such as respiratory issues, coughing, and severe inflammation.

Heartworm disease can be prevented through regular administration of preventive medications prescribed by us. These medications are given monthly and work by killing the immature larvae before they can develop into adult worms. Additionally, annual heartworm testing is recommended for both dogs and cats to detect any infections early, as early intervention offers a better prognosis.

If a pet is diagnosed with heartworm disease, treatment options are available, but they can be complex, costly, and carry some risks. Treatment typically involves a series of injections to kill the adult worms, along with additional medications to manage the associated complications and support the pet’s recovery.

Prevention is key when it comes to heartworm disease, and pet owners should consult with us to develop an appropriate prevention plan for their pets based on their specific needs and geographical location. Generally, heartworm prevention can begin in puppies and kittens as young as twelve weeks old. Starting prevention early helps ensure that the dog remains protected and prevents the disease from progressing.

Find Out More About: