Pet owners may be familiar with heartworm prevention. Your vet may have educated you about the health threat of heartworm disease and how prevention is vital. Even pets that stay indoors still get affected. Read on to learn what prevents your dogs and cats from getting heartworms.
Mosquitoes transmit heartworms that carry larvae known as microfilaria. The microfilaria circulates in the host's blood and gets sucked by the mosquito as it feeds on the infected host. Dogs are often the natural heartworm hosts.
Once the mosquito sucks the larvae, it must develop into various stages before infecting another dog. For the development to happen, the outside temperatures need to be above 57 degrees for a consistent eight days and nights. The larvae mature as the weather becomes warmer.
But if there is a drop in temperature below the standard level, the development will stop. The larvae will not die but will resume development immediately after the temperatures start rising again.
The larvae can develop and reach their infective stage from eight to 30 days. The 30 days is usually the entire lifespan of a mosquito. When the infected mosquito bites your cat or dog, the microfilaria from the heartworm gets deposited on their skin. It then crawls into the bite and enters the pet’s bloodstream.
Once in the body, they move to the heart and develop gradually into adult worms that reproduce. After the reproduction, they fill the blood of their host with microfilaria and pass it to the next mosquito that bites them.
Once the microfilaria gets into the dog’s or cat’s bloodstream, they migrate to the heart on the right side, get attached to it, and grow into adulthood. You may not notice the clinical signs of heartworm disease during its first stages.
The microfilaria can take six to seven months to start maturing into adults. Once they do, they begin reproducing. Clinical signs do not show before reproduction happens. Your dog can host adult worms for up to seven years.
Adult worms can also develop in cats. However, they do not reproduce. They take nine months to mature and then live for one or two years. A cat’s heart is tiny, so one or two adult heartworms can fill it and cause harm. The length of an adult heartworm is usually one foot.
Below are the symptoms that your dog has a heartworm infection:
Respiratory complications, abnormal lung sounds, cough, difficulty breathing
Weight loss, and appetite loss
Weakness, lethargy, and intolerance to exercising
Swelling in the abdomen and fluid accumulation
Acute heart failure
Detecting whether your cat has a heartworm infection can be difficult. Ideally, your cat should get a blood test to know if there is an infection. However, the most common signs of heartworms in cats mimic asthma symptoms.
You can effectively prevent heartworm infection in dogs and cats. There are many heartworm preventatives. Your veterinarian will recommend the proper formulation and method to help your pet based on their lifestyle and risk factors.
The adult worms will not die due to the preventatives. The infection or symptoms will also not clear if the adult worms are already present in the pet’s body. Your pet should get a blood test to check for heartworm infection before they begin preventative treatment.
For more about preventing heartworms in dogs and cats, visit Spencer Springs Animal Hospital at our office in Las Vegas, Nevada. Call (702) 896-9999 to book an appointment today.