A 2020 Look At What You Need To Know about Heartworms
May 14 2020

 

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease in pets. Heartworms live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels, which causes severe lung disease, and heart damage. Heartworm disease can affect both dogs and cats.

 

Heartworms in Dogs

 

Heartworms that live inside the dog eventually mature into adults and can produce offspring if untreated up to several hundred worms. This disease can cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries. Your dog’s overall health will begin to decline if treated too late and prevention is by far the best option. If treatment is needed it should be administered by a professional veterinarian.

 

Heartworms in Cats

 

Heartworm disease affects cats differently than dogs. The cat is considered an atypical host for heartworms, this means that most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage and typically have just one to three worms. Heartworm disease in cats often goes undiagnosed, and even immature worms can cause real damage. Medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats.

 

Heartworm Disease Transmission


Heartworms can travel from animal to animal by using carriers such as mosquitos. When a mosquito bites and takes blood, it picks up baby heartworms, which can mature into larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. When the infected mosquito comes in contact with another animal and bites them the infected larvae enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. It takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms and can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. 

 

Signs of Heartworm Infection in your Dog

 

In the early stages of the disease, your dog may show few symptoms or no symptoms at all.  But at later stages, your dog will develop a mild persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, your pet may suffer from heart failure and their belly may become swollen due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs that possess large numbers of heartworms can suffer from cardiovascular collapse. 

 

Heartworm Testing

 

All dogs should be tested annually during your pet’s routine checkup at their veterinarian. 

 

  • Puppies under 7 months of age should be placed on heartworm prevention and should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later, and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.

 

  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention and tested annually.