(Information provided by the American Heartworm Society)
Heartworm is a very serious and potentially fatal disease. It affects not only the heart but the surrounding vessels and lungs as well, causing irreversible damage. Heartworm disease can effect not only our dogs and cats, but a variety of mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes and (surprisingly) sea lions.
The mosquito plays an important role in the heartworm lifecycle. When an animal is infected with heartworm, the female adult worms produce microscopic "baby worms" called microfilaria that circulate in the blood stream of the host. The mosquito will pick up these microfilaria during a blood meal, which will then mature into the larvae stage. These larvae are then deposited in a new host during the mosquito's next meal.
It take approximately 6 months for the larvae to develop into adult worms. Adult worms can reach up to a foot in length and live up to 5-7 years in our dogs and 2-3 years in our cats.
Prevention is simple, consisting of a once-a-month chewable tablet, or a 6-month injectable medication. Treatment is costly, time consuming, potentially dangerous, and requires strict confinement/exercise restriction for 6-8 weeks following treatment.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HEARTWORM DISEASE:
We recommend year-round Heartworm prevention, as well as annual screenings for our patients. This is also the recommendation of The American Heartworm Society.