"Heartworm" is the common name for Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. The primary host is usually a dog but heartworms have become more common in cats and are also known to occur in other animals, such as ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes and, very rarely, humans.
The term "heartworm" might lead you to believe the worms infest the heart, but adult worms are often found in the pulmonary arterial system, too. Lung damage and congestive heart failure may result. The damages caused by heartworms can lead to serious health complications and death.
One mosquito bite is all it takes to infect an unprotected dog. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes year-round and are found in dogs that live indoors and outdoors.
Although Cimarron Animal Hospital recommends heartworm vaccination as part of our preventative pet wellness treatments, it is very important that pet owners ALWAYS have their animals tested for heartworms before starting a preventive regimen. This is because giving a preventive to a heartworm-positive animal can cause further complications.