Heartworm, Dirofilaria immitus, is a nematode (roundworm) that lives in major pulmonary blood vessels and in the right side of the heart. This worm is found mainly in dogs, (including wolves, coyotes, foxes etc.), cats and ferrets. Unless immunosuppressed, (i.e. have AIDS, on chemotherapy etc.) humans and other animals do not seem to be affected by heartworms.Heartworm is transferred by…
Mosquitoes!!! In this area one of the main mosquito species that transfers heartworm is called the Treehole mosquito. True to its name this mosquito lives in the holes of trees and can come out to bite when temperatures rise above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that even in the winter dogs can become infected by heartworms!
Heartworms in the continental US Numbers are lower than otherwise would be or have been because of the number of animals that are on preventative
A mosquito bites an infected dog, sucks up some of the microfilaria (baby heartworms). While in the mosquito the worms mature from L2-L3 larvae. The L3 larvae are then injected back into a dog, cat or ferret and start the migration to the heart. The adult can live in the heart for several years without the animal showing any signs of infection. The diagrams below, (Courtesy of the American Heartworm Society), explain the life cycle in more detail. Heartworms can be fatal!
Prevention is the Key
There are several very good preventative medications that can be given once a month to prevent heartworms. Here at the clinic we carry Heartgard Plus, Interceptor and Revolution. Please feel free to talk with us about which preventative is best for your pet. If your pet is on a preventative year round then we recommend testing every 3 years. If not then a blood test is recommended before starting a preventative.
How do you know if your pet has heartworm? For dogs it is easy, just a simple, in house blood test that takes 10 minutes to run. Cats can be harder to diagnose. A good blood test is being developed and tested for use in cats. Ideally the dog should be tested, put on preventative for 6 months then tested again. If that test is negative then the dog does not need to be tested in our clinic for 3 years, (as long as the dog is on a monthly preventative).
What if my dog has heartworm?
There is a treatment! It consists of 2-3 injections of an arsenic derivative called immiticide, one month later oral ivermectin is given and then a month after that the dog is tested again for heartworms. The dog must be kept in strict confinement during the whole treatment. This treatment is serious, costly and not to be taken lightly. Most dogs do very well during the treatment process.
During the month of August we have a special on heartworm testing and Heartgard. Please call or visit for more details.
For more information about Heartworms visit:
http://www.capcvet.org/recomme… Interesting articles from Veterinary Partner.com:
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (the parasite)
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (diagnosing heartworms)
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (preventative options)
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (heartworm in cats)
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (heartworm disease)
http://www.VeterinaryPartner.c… (heartworm treatment)