The American Heartworm Society (established in 1974) celebrates the month of April as the month to raise awareness for one devastating but preventable disease that affects our pets – the heartworm disease. We are talking about a very serious and potentially fatal condition that is caused by a parasitic worm, a roundworm, that is very long and called Dirofilaria immitis. These worms grow very big and live in the heart, lungs and the associated blood vessels causing severe heart and lung diseases, heart failure, and damage to adjacent organs. Heartworm disease affects also wild animals such as coyotes, foxes, and ferrets that live in close proximity to domestic animals.
Read more about the Heartworm Prevention Month
Heartworm Life Cycle
Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that is caused by a parasitic worm, a roundworm, that is very long and called Dirofilaria immitis.
The mosquito becomes infected with microfilaria (the immature form of the parasite) while sucking blood from an infected animal.
It takes 10 to 14 days for the microfilaria to mature and reach the adult, infective stage.
When the infected mosquito bites another dog or a cat, the larvae will enter through the bite wound.
The adult form is called Dirofilaria immitis. When mature, it lives in the heart. In dogs, it can survive up to 7 years. The worms reside in the pulmonary arterial system and migrate to the heart and the great veins.
The cycle repeats every time a mosquito bites another animal.
You can use different approaches when it comes to heartworm prevention. There are topical “spot on” medications, chewable pills, injectable medication (given every 6 months). All of these are only available by prescription from your veterinarian.
The various options for prevention can only protect your dog from heartworms and others protect your pet from internal parasites and heartworm or many different parasites like fleas, mites and ticks.
Most veterinarians are aware of the heartworm situation in their area and they are the ones who should suggest you the best prevention solution and which products to use.