April is National Heartworm Awareness Month

What is Heartworm Disease? Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the heart and lungs of dogs, cats and other mammals. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection.
Infected dogs are the source of heartworm infection. The disease is spread by mosquitoes that become infected with microfilariae (baby heartworms) while taking a blood meal from an infected dog. Within the mosquito, the microfilariae mature into the infective larval stage. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat, or susceptible animal, the larvae are deposited on the skin and actively migrate into the new host. For about 2 months the larvae migrate through the connective tissue under the skin, then pass into the animal’s venous blood stream and are quickly transported to the arteries of the lung. It takes a total of approximately six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms that begin producing more microfilaria. Adult heartworms can live for five to seven years in the dog.
Heartworms mature in the cat as well, but fewer worms survive to adulthood. While dogs may suffer from severe heart and lung damage from heartworm infection, cats typically exhibit minimal changes in the heart. The cat’s primary response to the presence of heartworms occurs in the lungs.

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