Every year, approximately 250,000 dogs and 5,000 cats test positive for heartworm disease. They are also found in ferrets and wild animals such as wolves, foxes, and sea lions. Heartworms are tiny parasites that live inside of the hearts of pets for their entire adult life. They are transmitted by mosquitoes that feast on the blood of an infected animal. The larvae from the heartworm mature and enter the mosquito's mouth two to three weeks later. When the mosquito bites another animal, the heartworm is transmitted to the new host.
The Heartworm Lifecycle
It takes around three months for a heartworm to grow and reach the host animal's heart. Once there, the adult heartworm can grow as long as 14 inches. Heartworm also mate and reproduce inside of dogs and cats. The time from the initial mosquito bite to when the heartworm lays new eggs is approximately six months in dogs and eight months in cats. Unfortunately, heartworms can survive between five and seven years in the heart and vessels of an untreated animal.
Symptoms of Heartworm Disease
Most dogs and cats show no obvious signs of heartworm infestation. In more severe cases, the animal may lose weight, have decreased interest in eating, cough, show general signs of listlessness, or appear to have a pot belly. These problems typically develop when the worms are obstructing the animal's airways or have completely filled one of the ventricles of the heart.
Prevention is Key
For as common and tragic as heartworm disease is, it's also completely preventable. The veterinarians at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo recommend a monthly heartworm pill to prevent the larvae from developing into adults and reproducing. It's important to keep in mind that the medication can't stop heartworms from entering a pet's body, but it can prevent the damage these parasites cause. Pets that receive the monthly medication consistently all year long can enjoy a happy and active life free of heartworms. Call us today for an appointment to set up a plan to keep your pet healthy and heartworm free!
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