Dec 05 , 2019
April is Heartworm Awareness Month, but we believe facts about heartworms are good to know any time of the year. Heartworm is a serious disease that affects both dogs and cats. This disease is extremely dangerous and, if not treated properly, it is often fatal. You may already know the basics about this disease but the more you know, the better equipped you will be to prevent it or, in the worst case scenario, fight it. Here are just a few interesting heartworm facts that you may not know.
Heartworm can ONLY be transmitted by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites a dog or cat that is already infected with heartworm, it picks up some of the baby worms—these microscopic worms are called microfilaria. Over a period of 10 to 14 days, the microfilaria develop into larvae—this is the infective stage of the disease. After this point, if the mosquito bites a dog or cat, it will transfer some of the infective larvae and the larvae will develop over the next six months into adult heartworms.
Different mosquitoes carry heartworm at different times of the year. There are 22 species of mosquito in the United States that have been identified which can carry heartworm. These species of mosquito are active at different times of the day and during different times of the year, so your pets are at risk for contracting heartworm all year round, not just during the spring and summer when mosquitoes are most active.
Your pet could test negative for heartworm but still carry the disease. It takes about six months after a heartworm-carry mosquito bites your pet for the infective larvae to develop into adults. During that time, the larvae travel through your pet’s blood stream to the heart and lungs where they develop and mature—at this point they will also start reproducing which means that your pet could begin infecting other pets.
There is only ONE approved treatment for heartworm in dogs and none for cats. The only approved treatment for heartworm is a drug called Immiticide. This drug is arsenic-based and it must be given via injection two or three times to kill adult heartworms living in the blood vessels of the infected dog. This treatment also requires extensive X-rays, blood work, and other tests to determine the severity of the injection.
Treating heartworm is 15x MORE EXPENSIVE than preventing it. Heartworm prevention is as simple as giving your dog a monthly pill, but treatment can be much more difficult. Dogs and cats should be tested for heartworm once a year and they must be tested before starting heartworm prevention pills.