Thursday, April 2, 2015
What is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially-fatal disease seen in pets in the
as well as other parts of the world.
Heartworm disease is caused by heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis), which are
parasites that can grow to be one foot long within an infected animal. These parasites live in the heart and the
blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs, and they can cause
severe lung damage and heart failure. In
addition to dogs and cats, heartworms can live in other mammals, such as
wolves, coyote, and foxes. These wild animals can serve as a source of
infection for our pets. United States
The mosquito is essential in the transmission of heartworm. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic immature worms called microfilaria which circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal and takes a blood meal, it picks up these microfilaria. Over the course of 10-14 days, the microfilaria mature into an infective stage of larvae within the mosquito. After maturation occurs, when that mosquito bites a dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are able to enter the new host. Once inside the new host, it takes approximately six months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in dogs and up to two to three years in cats. The longer an animal is infected, the more likely it will show signs of disease. The signs of heartworm disease can vary in dogs and cats but often relate to damage to the heart and/or lungs. These signs can be as subtle as a loss of appetite, or as severe as sudden death. We will discuss the signs in more detail in a future post.
Heartworms are present in all 50 states, and the American Heartworm Society estimates that over one million dogs in the
are currently infected with adult heartworms.
Because infected mosquitoes can get inside your home, both indoor and
outdoor pets are at risk. Prevention is
the key to keeping your pet healthy and safe from heartworm disease. A variety of safe and effective preventives
are available for both dogs and cats.
Look for more blog posts later this month written by our staff members to learn
more about heartworm disease and what we recommend to prevent it, or call our
office at (203) 775-3679 for more information.
By Michael Dattner, DVM
Michael Dattner, DVM, along with his wife, Silke Bogart, DVM is the owner of
. Please click here to read his
complete bio. Brookfield Animal