What is heartworm?

By April 23, 2021 No Comments

Heartworm is a blood parasite affecting dogs in Ontario.

Dogs are a natural host for Heartworm disease, but heartworms also infect other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes and foxes. Because foxes and coyotes often live close to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

The transmission of heartworm disease starts with a simple mosquito bite! The mosquito bites an infected animal and ingests the larvae (also known as microfilaria). The larvae then lives and further matures in the mosquito. When mosquito bites a new animal the larvae leave the mosquito and enter the skin of the new victim. The larvae then travel through the skin and into the blood stream where they will travel to the heart and mature into adult heartworms and start reproducing (starting the cycle all over again!).

For the animal that now has larvae in their blood stream, not only are they are carrier of the disease and spreading it but these larvae are moving to the heart and large blood vessels surrounding the heart and are maturing into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can be up to a foot in length and take up substantial space in the heart and vessels surrounding the heart decreasing blood flow (they act much like a clogged artery). The animal then goes on to develop signs of heart failure.

Although dogs infected with Heartworm disease can be treated if caught early the treatment is complicated and costly.

The good news is that Heartworm disease can be easily prevented with regular testing and preventative medications given once monthly from June 1st to November 1st.

Please call us today at (905) 898-4315 to discuss heartworm prevention for your dog!

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